New Delhi: The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Tuesday announced former Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu, a tribal leader from Odisha, as its presidential candidate.
The opposition had earlier in the day declared former Union finance minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Yashwant Sinha — a former BJP member — as their joint nominee.
Addressing a press conference, BJP president J.P. Nadda said, after extensive and detailed discussions with NDA allies, it was felt that the presidential candidate should come from the east and should be a tribal woman.
In the presidential election, the NDA is comfortably placed, falling short of a majority by just 1.2 per cent of the votes in the electoral college.
The BJD, Odisha’s ruling party, has 3 per cent of the votes.
While Murmu’s candidature is expected to boost the BJP’s prospects among tribal communities across the country, especially in poll-bound Gujarat, in the immediate future it would also give a fillip to the party’s efforts to expand its votebank in the eastern state.
Murmu hails from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. She started off as a teacher before entering state politics. She was elected as an MLA on a BJP ticket twice from Rairangpur in Mayurbhanj (2000 and 2009). She was sworn in as the first woman governor of Jharkhand in 2015.
Announcing the name, Nadda said the BJP tried to build consensus among all the parties.
“After the opposition parties announced their candidate, the BJP spoke to all the NDA partners and it was decided to field a woman candidate. A detailed discussion was held on 20 names and a consensus was built that someone from eastern India and from the tribal community must be made the President of India,” he added.
“After discussion, the parliamentary board decided to name Droupadi Murmu as the presidential nominee,” said Nadda.
Smt. Droupadi Murmu Ji has devoted her life to serving society and empowering the poor, downtrodden as well as the marginalised. She has rich administrative experience and had an outstanding gubernatorial tenure. I am confident she will be a great President of our nation.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 21, 2022
A tribal, Nadda added, had never been President of India, making the move more significant.
The decision was taken by the BJP’s parliamentary board, which is the party’s top organisational body and includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi among its members.
Eye on polls?
Murmu, the BJP hopes, will not only represent the tribal population across India but can also help garner tribal votes during the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as well as in the assembly elections for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year.
Tribals constitute around 14.5 per cent of Gujarat’s population and around 5 per cent in Himachal Pradesh.
They also constitute over 21 per cent of Madhya Pradesh’s population, and a sizable chunk in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where elections are due in 2023.
Apart from Modi and Nadda, Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan were part of the deliberations at the party headquarters.
The last date for filing of nomination papers is 29 June, and the election is scheduled for 18 July.
The NDA seems confident of emerging victorious in the presidential election and has been in talks with ally JD(U), apart from regional parties like the YSR Congress Party and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), for securing a majority.
The BJP had authorised Singh and Nadda to consult with other parties including the opposition, and arrive at a consensus on a presidential candidate.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)