BJP patriarch LK Advani, veteran leader Murli Manohar Joshi, the composed Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and the seasoned Sushma Swaraj – these are some of the many names doing the rounds for India’s next President.
But there is a new name coming to the fore amidst speculations that the ruling BJP could put forth a surprise candidate. That name is of Draupadi Murmu, the current Governor of Jharkhand.
If elected, Murmu will become the first person from a tribal community to occupy the chair of the President. But she has other firsts already to boast about in her career spanning two decades.
The Many Firsts of Governor Draupadi
When Murmu took charge in May 2015 at the age of 59, Murmu went on to become the first woman to hold the Governor’s office in Jharkhand.
She was also the first woman leader from Odisha to be appointed Governor of an Indian state.
Murmu holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rama Devi Women's College, Bhubaneswar. Before she joined politics in 1997, she worked as an honorary assistant professor in the Shri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research, Rairangpur, and as a junior assistant in the irrigation department of Odisha.
Her political journey began in 1997 when she was elected councillor in Rairangpur district in Odisha. The same year she went on to become the Vice-Chairperson of Rairangpur. Just three years later, she was elected from the same constituency of Rairangapur to the state assembly.
Between 2000-2004, in the Naveen Patnaik-led BJP government, she held ministerial portfolios in the Department of Transport and Commerce and in Fisheries and Animal Husbandry. She was awarded the "Nilakantha Award" for the best MLA in 2007 by the Odisha Legislative Assembly.
She remained the BJP district president for Mayurbhanj for seven years from 2002-2009, before she was elevated as the President of Mayurbhanj district in 2013, and continued to hold office till she occupied the Governor's chair. During that period, she was also made the national executive member of the BJP ST Morcha, or the Scheduled Tribes wing of the party.
In an interview after she was appointed the Governor of Jharkhand, she opened up about her personal life.
Draupadi MurmuI have witnessed many ups and downs in life. I have lost my two sons and my husband. I was completely devastated. But God has given me the strength to continue to serve the people.
She has one daughter who is married.
Race to the Presidential Post
The Presidential election is slated to be held on 25 July, when the term of the incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee expires.
While Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi have been holding a slew of meetings in a bid to elect the next President, the BJP has not made any official announcement yet. Whether the party will throw up the surprise name of Draupadi Murmu remains to be seen.