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India’s first tribal president elected

Reuters/AFP Bombay/New Delhi

Lawmakers yesterday chose India’s first president from among the country’s tribal communities, which could boost the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party among marginalized groups ahead of the 2024 general election.
Draupadi Murmu, a 64-year-old teacher turned politician, takes office on July 25 at the start of a five-year term.
More than 4,500 state and federal lawmakers cast ballots in Monday’s presidential election.
The ballots were counted yesterday.
Murmu’s victory was assured as she was backed by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which dominates federal and state politics.
“A girl from India from a tribal community born in a remote area of ​​eastern India has been elected our president!” Modi said on Twitter.
Modi wrote that “Murmu’s exemplary success motivates every Indian”.
“She has emerged as a beacon of hope for our fellow citizens, especially the poor, marginalized and oppressed,” he wrote.
Born into a family from the Santhal tribe in the state of Odisha, Murmu started her career as a teacher and was actively involved in community issues.
She later joined mainstream politics and served as a BJP state MP in Odisha before becoming governor of the eastern state of Jharkhand.
His election is seen as the BJP’s outreach to Indian tribal communities, which make up more than 8% of its 1.4 billion people.
“The BJP will want to compensate any anti-incumbent of the last 10 years in 2024, and one of the ways to do that is to go for a new voting base,” political columnist Neerja Choudhary told Reuters.
Murmu beat opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP finance minister and now fierce critic of Modi, winning almost twice as many votes.
Sinha also tweeted his congratulations.
“India hopes that as the 15th President of the Republic, she will act as guardian of the Constitution without fear or favor,” Sinha wrote.
Murmu will be the country’s second female president after Pratibha Patil, who held the post for five years from 2007.
She succeeds Ram Nath Kovind, the second president from the Dalit community, the basis of the Hindu caste system.
“As a tribal woman from the remote district of Mayurbhanj, I hadn’t thought of becoming a candidate for the top job,” she told reporters shortly after her nomination this month.
“We have been on the road fighting for tribal rights since the 90s,” activist Dayamani Barla told AFP, adding: “Whatever the agenda of the BJP (…), it must place a politician from a tribal community as president, she won’t be able to do anything unless she is allowed to use her pen.
The prime minister and cabinet wield executive powers in India, although the head of state can return a few parliamentary bills for reconsideration and also helps in the process of forming governments.
“Being in the seat isn’t as important as having the power to actually use your position,” Barla said.

Last update: July 22, 2022 12:28 a.m.