Bhubaneswar: For the first time ever in the history of India a grassroots level tribal woman leader has been proposed to head the highest office of the Country – The President’s Office. The selection of Draupadi Murmu as the presidential candidate by the National Democratic Alliance is a step in the right direction when it comes to recognizing women empowerment. With this, the Bharatiya Janata Party led NDA has not just shown its maturity but also recognized the cause of tribal communities and emphasizing their position.
Draupadi Murmu has her roots in the tribal hinterlands of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. She has risen from the grassroots of politics. She had a modest beginning as councillor of Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat in 1997. After that, she became the Vice-Chairman of Rairangpur Local Body. She was the MLA from Rairangpur for two consecutive terms from 2000 to 2009. She also became a minister in the Naveen Patnaik led Odisha government with important portfolios between 2000 and 2004. Because of her commitment towards the people, she was conferred with the Nilkantha award for best MLA by Odisha Legislative Assembly in 2007. In 2015, Murmu became the first woman Governor of Jharkhand.
The elevation of Draupadi Murmu to this position is an outcome of the changed political and social scenario of Odisha. She has been a champion for the cause of tribal upliftment in the state. She also represents the changing role of women in Odisha. As Odisha has shown tremendous progress in women empowerment in the last more than two decades, the recognition has come in the form of Murmu being the presidential candidate.
Odisha under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been spearheading the cause of women empowerment through various initiatives. Today, women constitute an important part of the polity. Reservation for women in electoral politics starting from the Panchayat level, encouragement to the Self Help Group Movement under the aegis of Mission Shakti, priority to women in education, health agriculture etc., have made Odisha the most successful state in the country in terms of women empowerment. There is no doubt that the efforts of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had any impact on the selection of Draupadi Murmu as the presidential candidate. Naveen has always supported the upliftment of women and today he will be the most happiest person if a tribal woman from his own state becomes the President of the country. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was quick to react to the decision of the NDA and said that “Congratulations Smt Draupadi Murmu on being announced as candidate of NDA for the country’s highest office. I was delighted when Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi discussed this with me. It is indeed a proud moment for people of Odisha. I am sure Smt Murmu will set a shining example for women empowerment in the country.” It is clear that the NDA leadership was in touch with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on this important decision and had a constructive discussion to choose the right candidate for the highest office of the country. The Odisha Chief Minister also urged all the MLAs in the Assembly to extend their support to the state’s daughter cutting across party lines. In order to make the candidature of Draupadi Murmu a consensus one, Chief Minister Naveen also spoke to the various party leaders in the state and requested them to lend support to the daughter of Odisha to become the President of the country. He spoke to senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra and sought support for Draupadi Murmu. He said, it is a matter of great pride for Odisha and appealed him to ensure the winning of the daughter of Odisha to the highest office of the country. On the appeal of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Independent MLA from Rayagada, Makaranda Muduli has come forward and said that he will support the candidature of Draupadi Murmu for the President’s post. Naveen has thanked him for this. Naveen also instructed his senior party leaders to reach out to the other MLA of the state and persuade them to vote for Murmu. BJD Organisational Secretary Pranab Prakash Das met Odisha Congress President Sarat Patnaik and held discussions on the support to Draupadi Murmu. These efforts by the Chief Minister are nothing but his commitment to the cause of women empowerment and upholding the pride of Odisha.
Murmu, being a tribal woman from a tribal dominated region, knows the importance of her being the president of the country. Nearly nine percent of the country’s population is tribal but till date no leader from the community could become the president of India. Murmu will represent an important segment of the Indian society that remained sidelined for generations. The eastern part of India including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and the North Eastern states have a considerable tribal population that would be elated if somebody from among them becomes the President of the Country.
The most promising years of Murmu’s career starting in 2000, were coincidentally, related to the beginning of the women empowerment movement in Odisha. Odisha’s many initiatives including the Mission Shakti, Mamata Yojana, reservation of women in Panchayatiraj Institutions etc., helped in upliftment of the stature of women in the society. The Odisha Government initiated some important schemes such as the Mission Shakti in 2001 that aimed at all round upliftment of women and transform their lives. Mission Shakti today has become a role model for the country in empowering women. The same is also happening with Murmu. Today, she symbolizes the empowerment of women. Truly the era of women empowerment is at its height.
Whatever the political calculations, the Bharatiya Janata Party may have made in choosing Murmu in terms of political gains, the outcome is just more power to women empowerment. In today’s scenario, Draupadi Murmu is the perfect candidate to become the President of the Country and give a new direction to tribal empowerment. This journey from Rairangpur to Rashtrapati Bhawan will have no parallels in the pages of history.