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President Droupadi Murmu: Much beyond symbolism and tokenism

In the 75th year of Independence, India scripted history by electing the first tribal woman as the 15th President of the Republic.

Droupadi Murmu

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  29 July 2022 2:54 AM GMT

Monoj Kumar Hazarika (mkhazarika11@gmail.com)

In the 75th year of Independence, India scripted history by electing the first tribal woman as the 15th President of the Republic. Droupadi Murmu, the NDA nominee was elected with a 64% vote share defeating the UPA candidate Yashwant Sinha. Her victory is rejoiced and celebrated across the country, mainly in the states with substantial tribal and Adivasi populations. The people of Odisha, her home state, were euphoric as the entire state erupted in frenzied celebration.

However, in the run-up to the presidential election, there were lots of accusations against the ruling dispensation, the BJP-led NDA for nominating her for the top post with opposition terming this as a mere symbolism and tokenism to placate the tribal and Adivasi community and get their votes. But, her victory indicates much beyond symbolism and tokenism.

Firstly, Droupadi Murmu's victory has sent a strong message to all sections of society that truthful people with quality and calibre can aspire to achieve anything in today's India. Gone are the days when the divide between the ruling class and the deprived was wide and forbidding. Appeasement politics and neglect kept the tribal and Adivasi communities secluded from mainstream development. If at all, any basic amenities were provided to them, it was tardy! But, with speedy developmental activities, better education, infrastructure, connectivity, and more important, social inclusiveness the overall outlook of the tribal communities has changed. Therefore, Droupadi Murmu's victory will surely act as an inspiration and augment their aspirations further.

Secondly, the eminence she displayed in her life is irrefutable. Her political journey from Rairangpur in Odisha to Raisina hills was adorned with simplicity, spirituality, sincerity and selfless service to society. Probably, these facets were her USP, which politicians across party lines couldn't ignore. The overwhelming support she received from the non-NDA parties and also from many members of the opposition camp is very significant in the fact that truthfulness matters, even in this over-competitive political discourse. The massive cross-voting- 126 MLAs from 18 states and 17 MPs is testimony to this. In contrast, her opponent Yashwant Sinha, despite having a distinguished political career, was making fault-finding comments on democratic values in line with the opposition's rhetoric.

Interestingly, his appeal to the electoral college to vote according to their conscience was taken seriously, when many opposition MPs and MLAs voted for Droupadi Murmu! Therefore, the support from lawmakers across party lines indicates her acceptance by defeating the opposition's symbolism and tokenism rhetoric.

Her simplicity can be attributed to the way she conducted herself from the day of her nomination and during her campaigns in many states when she maintained the highest dignity, grace and politeness without making any critical comments. Despite being almost sure to win the election as an NDA nominee, she reached out to other non-NDA parties with a submissive demeanour. Soft-spoken and always keeping a low profile she personified 'simple living and high thinking.

A deeply spiritual woman, Droupadi Murmu is a keen practitioner of the meditation techniques of the Brahma Kumaris, which she embraced after she lost many of her loved ones in a very short period.

Overcoming many challenges and obstacles being a tribal lady, she completed her graduation in Arts from Ramadevi Women's College in Bhubaneswar and served as a junior assistant in the Irrigation and Power Department in the Odisha government. Later, she also served as an honorary assistant teacher in the Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre in Rairangpur. Her sincerity is established by the fact that she was awarded the Nilkanth Award for the Best MLA of the year in 2007 by the Odisha Legislative Assembly. She has always worked very hard for her community, and this has garnered her a great deal of recognition.

Her diverse administrative experience handling ministries such as transport, commerce, fisheries and animal husbandry in the Odisha government and later as a full-time Governor of Jharkhand ascertain her as a suitable candidate for the supreme post.

As for the political scenario post this landmark moment, the presidential election result had revealed the cynicism within the opposition camp. Their initial pledge turned to qualms and finally to a situation of total disintegration. The opposition disarray worsens as the initial cohesion fast faded to superficiality. It all started after Mamata Banerjee made a surprising turn indicating and acknowledging that Droupadi Murmu could have been the consensus candidate had the NDA discussed their candidature with the opposition before declaring their candidate. A few more NDA adversaries pledging their support for her made the contest look one-sided before polling, but after the result, the chink in opposition unity became prominent. The insulting comment by the RJD leader before the election revealed the obnoxious mindset of a few political dynasts. Blind and arrogant with a superfluous sense of entitlement, undermining the credibility and quality of commoners, they might be a real threat to democracy! It's also unfortunate that some so-called liberal intellectuals who enunciate for women's empowerment and uplift of downtrodden communities, now sense wrongness in Droupadi Murmu's candidature, only because she is chosen by the ruling dispensation. Since the President is elected by the electoral college comprising of the Lok Sabha MPs, Rajya Sabha MPs and the state MLAs, there is no doubt that it is a political choice and therefore the party having a majority or advantage will pitch in their preference. It wasn't different in the past either. So, blaming the ruling dispensation for garnering political advantage is obvious on part of the opposition. This, however, shouldn't belittle the credentials of Droupadi Murmu.

It's indeed a tectonic moment to have a woman from the underprivileged and downtrodden community at the highest office of the nation. Droupadi Murmu as the 15th President of India epitomises strength, dedication and aspiration to millions, not only among the tribals and Adivasis but for all the Indians. It is much more and beyond mere symbolism and tokenism!

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