BJP picked Draupadi Murmu, a tribal leader from Odisha, against Yashwant Sinha, who was also BJP leader once; he was finance minister under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He also served as the Minister of External Affairs from July 2002 until May 2004. Before he left the party, he was a senior leader of the BJP. The opposition picked Sinha because they assumed most of the BJP supporters would not mind voting for him. Fielding Murmu was a decision taken at the BJP’s parliamentary board meeting.
The poll is slated for July 18. Draupadi Murmu is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. She previously served as the ninth Governor of Jharkhand from 2015 to 2021. Coming from the state of Odisha, Murmu is the first Governor of Jharkhand to complete the five-year term, and the second person (the first person from Scheduled Tribe Presidential nominated candidate was Purno Sangma), belonging to a scheduled tribe, to be nominated as a candidate to the post of President of India.
Murmu was a schoolteacher before entering into state politics. She worked as an assistant professor at the Shri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research Institute, Rairangpur and as a Junior Assistant at the irrigation department of the Government of Odisha. Murmu joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1997 and was elected as the councillor of the Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat. Murmu became the Chairperson of Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat in 2000. She also served as the national vice-president of Bharathiya Janata Party Scheduled Tribes Morcha.
During the Bharatiya Janata Party and Biju Janata Dal coalition government in Odisha, she was the Minister of State with Independent Charge for Commerce and Transportation from March 6, 2000, to August 6, 2002, and Fisheries and Animal Resources Development from August 6, 2002, to May 16, 2004. Murmu took oath as the Governor of Jharkhand on 18 May 2015.
Murmu, a grassroots politician, has many firsts to her credit. She was the first woman and tribal leader from Odisha to be appointed as governor of any state. The first governor to complete their term in the state was her. She was also in consideration for the presidential post in 2017 but later Ramnath Kovind made the cut. The BJP’s move to name Murmu as its presidential candidate comes ahead of assembly elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The four states have 128 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes, of which the BJP had won just 35 seats in the last assembly elections. With Murmu as its presidential candidate, the party can hope to strengthen its appeal among tribal voters.
BJD leader Navin Patnaik has welcomed Murmu’s candidature indicating support for her. At the same time, Murmu’s candidature would also put Jharkhand chief minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren in a fix. Soren’s party is known for its tribal politics and it would be difficult for him to oppose a tribal woman, especially one who has been the governor of his state. Interestingly, the UPA presidential candidate, Yashwant Sinha, is also from Jharkhand. The BJP can also hope to get support from smaller parties like Bharatiya Tribal Party, which has MLAs in Gujarat and Rajasthan, said the people.
As Governor in 2017, Murmu had refused to give assent to a bill approved by the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly seeking amendments to the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908, and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1949. The bill sought to give rights to tribals to commercially use their land, while ensuring that the ownership of land does not change. Murmu remained firm on her decision as governor and sought an explanation from the Raghubar Das-led Bharatiya Janata Party- government about the changes it would bring to the well-being of tribals. All National Democratic Alliance partners pledged their support. Opposition parties like Biju Janata Dal, YSR Congress Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Janata Dal (Secular), the Bahujan Samaj Party, Telugu Desam Party and Shiromani Akali Dal pledged their support to Murmu. Shiv Sena got divided for voting for Murmu, while most of the political parties supported her. Sinha has all the left party votes for him, but that won’t be enough.