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New Delhi: Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has welcomed the BJP parliamentary board’s move to name Droupadi Murmu, who hails from the state and has been a governor of Jharkhand, as the NDA’s candidate for the presidential election.
BJP president J.P. Nadda announced her name at a press conference following a meeting of the party’s top brass.
The 64-year-old Murmu was twice elected as a BJP legislator from Odisha and was a minister in the Naveen Patnaik cabinet when the saffron party supported the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
Patnaik having extended his support to Murmu’s candidature makes her election a formality as the numbers are stacked in the favour of the BJP-led NDA.
Congratulations Smt #DraupadiMurmu on being announced as candidate of NDA for the country’s highest office. I was delighted when Hon’ble PM @narendramodi ji discussed this with me. It is indeed a proud moment for people of #Odisha.
— Naveen Patnaik (@Naveen_Odisha) June 21, 2022
Murmu will be the first member of a tribal community to occupy the top constitutional post. She will also become just the second woman to occupy the president’s chair, after Pratibha Patil.
“I am surprised as well as delighted. As a tribal woman from remote Mayurbhanj district, I had not thought of becoming the candidate for the top post,” Murmu told reporters at her Rairangpur residence late on Tuesday.
She said the NDA government’s decision to nominate a tribal woman for the top post is a reflection of the BJP’s slogan of “sabka saath, sabka vikas aur sabka vishwas”.
On Wednesday, the Union government accorded Z+ security cover of CRPF commandos to Murmu. The armed squad took over the security of Murmu early in the morning, a senior officer told PTI.
Seventeen opposition parties had earlier announced Yashwant Sinha as their joint candidate for the post. The poll is slated for July 18 and votes will be counted on July 21.
There were speculations that the NDA’s presidential nominee will be either from the poll-bound Telangana or Odisha, where the BJP wants to seize power after Naveen Patnaik’s retirement. Given each decision of the Modi government is taken with electoral calculations in mind, choosing a leader from an Odisha Adivasi community seems to be its best bet currently. Murmu has a clean track record and as an Adivasi can challenge, at least in perception, the upper caste dominance in Odisha’s politics and consolidate a large section of the Adivasi population in western Odisha.
In 2019, BJP performed surprisingly well in Adivasi-dominated regions of Odisha. At the same time, by elevating an Adivasi to the top constitutional position for the first time in Indian history, the BJP will also be placed well to reach out with the political message among Adivasi communities – especially in Chhattisgarh, where assembly polls will happen next year.
The current president Ram Nath Kovind also proved to be an ideal choice for BJP. Not only did his candidature consolidate a large section of non-Jatav Dalits in Uttar Pradesh but also sent positive signals to Dalit communities across the country.
In light of the BJD’s decision to support the NDA candidate, there will be added pressure on parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress party to choose Murmu over Yashwant Sinha, who was a former BJP member who rebelled against the party.
Note: This article, originally published at 10.12 pm on June 21, 2022, was republished with additional information at 10.30 am on June 22, 2022.