Draupadi Murmu scripted history after winning the presidential election on Thursday, July 11. Draupadi scripted history as India’s first Adivasi President and the second woman in the post. This unassuming politician started public life as a councillor in Odisha.
On Thursday, the former Jharkhand governor and the BJP-led NDA’s presidential candidate, who found many other backers along her campaign trail, won an easy victory over the opposition’s pick Yashwant Sinha.
At 64, Draupadi who will be India’s 15th president, taking over from Ram Nath Kovind, will also be the youngest and India’s first president born after Independence. She will be sworn in on July 25. The low-profile politician is believed to be deeply spiritual and a keen practitioner of the meditation techniques of the Brahma Kumaris, a movement she embraced after she lost her husband, two sons, mother and brother in just six years between 2009-2015.
Her first steps in politics were taken in Rairangpur, where she was elected as a BJP councillor in the Rairangpur Notified Area Council in 1997 and rose to be a minister in Odisha’s BJD-BJP coalition government from 2000 to 2004. She held the post of district president till April 2015, when she was appointed as the Governor of Jharkhand, and she stayed in this post till 2021.
Belonging to Mayurbhanj, one of the country’s most remote and underdeveloped districts, Murmu earned her Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Bhubaneswar’s Ramadevi Women’s College and served as a junior assistant in the Irrigation and Power department in the Odisha government. She also served as an honorary assistant teacher in the Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre in Rairangpur. Murmu was awarded the Nilkanth Award for the Best MLA of the year in 2007 by the Odisha Legislative assembly.
Born into a Santhal family, she is an excellent orator in Santhali and Odia languages, former Odisha BJP president Manmohan Samal said. He added that she had worked extensively to improve infrastructure such as roads and ports in the region. The tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj has been the focus of the BJP, which is eyeing a strong foothold in the state. The BJD snapped ties with the BJP in 2009 and has consolidated its hold over Odisha since then.
Murmu had contested the 2014 Assembly election from Rairangpur but lost to the BJD candidate. And after completing her tenure as Jharkhand Governor, Murmu devoted her time to social work in Rairangpur. “I am surprised as well as delighted. As a tribal woman from remote Mayurbhanj district, I had not thought about becoming the candidate for the top post,” she said after her selection as the presidential candidate.
She has diverse administrative experience, having handled ministries such as transport, commerce, fisheries and animal husbandry in the Odisha government.
In the BJP, Murmu was vice president and later president of the Scheduled Tribe Morcha in Odisha. She was elected the district president of the Mayurbhanj (West) unit of the BJP in 2010 and re-elected in 2013. She was also named a member of the BJP National Executive (ST Morcha) the same year.
(With inputs from PTI)