National

Droupadi Murmu: A gentle conciliator

Poornima Joshi | Updated on: Jun 22, 2022
Droupadi Murmu

Droupadi Murmu

The first tribal woman to have an almost sure shot at becoming India’s President has risen through the ranks in politics despite humble origins and grave personal tragedies

It was not really a contest although BJP President JP Nadda did underline that the party was spoilt for choice in their selection of the candidate for the upcoming presidential poll.

There were, said Nadda, 20 candidates to choose from when the Prime Minister arrived in the BJP headquarters on Tuesday night to start the discussion in the party’s highest decision-making body, the parliamentary board, about who should inhabit the office of the head of Indian Republic after President Ram Nath Kovind’s term comes to an end.

Origin story

Droupadi Murmu is a tribal woman from Rairangpur, Myurbhanj, Odisha, and a politician who is almost a metaphor for the new BJP — humble origins, graduated from the non-descript Ramadevi Women’s College in Bhubaneswar, worked as a junior assistant in the Irrigation and Power Department and then taught at Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre, Rairangpur before she joined the BJP as Vice President of the State Scheduled Tribal Morcha in 1997 and became a councilor.

Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam along with Droupadi Murmu attending the 5th Convocation of Birsa Agricultural University at Ranchi

Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam along with Droupadi Murmu attending the 5th Convocation of Birsa Agricultural University at Ranchi

She rose steadily in the party ranks and joined the BJD-BJP alliance government in 2000 after a big cyclone hit Odisha in 1999 when Naveen Patnaik first became the Chief Minister.

The smiling CM first responded her appointment as a “proud moment for Odisha”. It is as much a tribute to the BJP’s astute move to capture hearts, especially in the western, tribal-dominated parts of Odisha, as a remembrance of old times as colleagues when he was a greenhorn in politics.

Although she shied away from cameras late in the night after the BJP announced her candidature, Murmu is widely known for her gentle, friendly demeanour and penchant for staying clear of controversy.

A quiet worker

As a Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the departments of Transport and Commerce, Animal Husbandry, and the Department of Fisheries in Naveen Patnaik’s government between 2000-2004, Murmu was known to keep her head down and did not get involved in partisanship or fissures between the old and the new guard within the dominant BJD and quietly did her work.

Droupadi Murmu with tribal girls beating a traditional ‘Nagara’ on the occasion of ‘Karma’ festival at Tribal Regional Language department in Ranchi

Droupadi Murmu with tribal girls beating a traditional ‘Nagara’ on the occasion of ‘Karma’ festival at Tribal Regional Language department in Ranchi

She got elected again in 2004 from Rairangpur and remained an effective MLA, getting the ‘Nilakantha Award’ for the best MLA of the year in 2007 by the Legislative Assembly of Odisha.

Her most trying time was for six years between 2015 and 2021 as the Governor of Jharkhand during which the State witnessed a change-of-guard in the 2019 Assembly elections as also several changes in the Chief Ministers which the BJP affected during its run as the ruling party. She is the first Governor to have completed her tenure without any controversy or Constitutional crisis in the volatile politics of the tribal State.

While she immersed herself in politics, Murmu has suffered deep personal tragedies with the demise of her husband Shyam Charan Murmu and two young sons. One of her sons died in mysterious circumstances in 2009 while the other died in a road accident in 2012. She has a grown-up daughter, Itishree Murmu, who is married to Ganesh Ch. Hembram.

Published on June 22, 2022
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