Who is Droupadi Murmu, the new president of a marginalized tribal community?

Droupadi Murmu, from a marginalized tribal community, was elected President of India on Thursday 21 July with the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party, following a parliamentary vote.

Droupadi Murmu, who is from the Santhal tribe, has the support of more than half of lawmakers, according to partial results published by the Election Commission. At the age of 64, she became the first female president of a tribe and the second president of India.

Droupadi Murmu, from the eastern Indian state of Odisha, was nominated by Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its candidate for the largely ceremonial post.

Second female president

Narendra Modi in his tweet congratulated Droupadi Murmu, emphasizing on this “His exemplary success motivates every Indian”. “He emerged as a ray of hope for the citizens of our country, especially the poor, marginalized and oppressed”he added.

Droupadi Murmu's main opponent, Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP member and former finance and external affairs minister, who is backed by the opposition parties, also congratulated the new president. India hopes they will take action “as guardians of the Constitution without fear or favor”he wrote.

Droupadi Murmu will be India's second female president after Pratibha Patil, who served for five years starting in 2007. She succeeds Ram Nath Kovind, the country's second president from the Dalit community, which is at the bottom of the caste system, also called “The Untouchables”.

The process of forming a government

Born in Mayurbhanj district of the state of Odisha, he began his professional life as a school teacher before holding political office. He held ministerial positions in the state government, and served as governor of the neighboring state of Jharkhand. “As a woman from a tribal community in the remote Mayurbhanj district, I did not expect to be a candidate for the post”he told the press after his nomination by the BJP.

The election of Droupadi Murmu was considered trivial due to the dominance of the BJP and its allies in parliament and the state assembly. As the position is largely ceremonial, his election is not expected to result in significant change for tribal communities, which have long been marginalized in society.

The Prime Minister of India holds executive power, but the President can send some bills back to Parliament for reconsideration. The president also plays a role in the government formation process.

Serena Hoyles

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