INDIA. Mumbai: Draupadi Murmu, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate and former Jharkhand Governor, pitted against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate, former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, is certain to romp home in the Presidential election with many non-NDA parties extending their support to her.
The polling to elect the country’s 15th President will be held on July 18, and votes will be counted on July 21. The term of President Ram Nath Kovind ends on July 24. The new President will be sworn in on July 25. This time, nearly 115 candidates are in the fray against 106 candidates in the 2017 Presidential election.
Support to Murmu
While NDA has nearly 48 per cent of the votes in the electoral college, a host of parties also have extended support to Murmu. The long list includes Biju Janata Dal (BJD), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Janata Dal (U), Janata Dal (Secular), Apna Dal, YSR Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Telugu Desam Party(TDP), Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Nishad Party, Republican Party of India (Athavale) and National People’sPeople’s Party (NPP).
Naga People’sPeople’s Front (NPF), Mizo National Front(MNF), Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), AINR Congress, Jannayak Janata Party, United Democratic Party, United Democratic Party (UDP), Indigenous People’sPeople’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and United People’sPeople’s Party Liberal(UPPL).
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which draws its electoral strength from tribal votes in Jharkhand, is one of the signatories for pitching Sinha as the joint Opposition candidate. It may support Murmu. Despite UPA, given the pressure from party MPs, the Shiv Sena has extended support to Murmu.
The role of the Aam Admi Party (AAP), which is at loggerheads with the BJP and the Congress, is still not clear. The AAP, which considers itself an alternative to the Congress, is planning to make heavy inroads in Gujarat in the ensuing Assembly election.
There are a sizable number of tribal votes in Gujarat. If AAP opposes Murmu, then it will be labelled as “anti-tribal”, and if it votes in her favour, it will be branded as the one supporting “saffron”. As such, the AAP is in a dilemma. Eventually, it may support Murmu.
The Opposition parties supporting Sinha include the Indian National Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), J&K National Conference, Samajwadi Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist(CPI-M), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), All India United Democratic Front (AUDF), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
The electoral college of 4809 voters with 10.86 lakh votes (Assemblies-543231 + Parliament-5,43,200) will decide the fate of the candidates. The college comprises MPs of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, MLAs of states, and MLAs of Delhi and Puducherry. Nominated members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Assemblies, and members of state legislative councils are not part of the electoral college.
The population of each state determines the value of the MLA’sMLA’s vote as per the census of 1971. The value varies from state to state, depending upon the population. It is as high as 208 in Uttar Pradesh and as low as 07 in Sikkim. The weighted votes from all assemblies add up to 543231 (No of Assemblies 30, No of MLAs 4033).
The 776 MPs ( Lok Sabha-543, Rajya Sabha-233) are required to contribute the same total of votes as the MLAs. As such, the total weighed 543231 votes divided by 776, rounded off to 700= 5,43,200.
Draupadi Murmu became the first woman Presidential candidate from a tribal Community since the late P A Sangma, who was a candidate from the tribal community in the 2012 Presidential election.
Murmu was born in a Santali tribal family on June 20, 1958, in Uparbeda village of Mayurbhanj district in Odisha. Both her father and grandfather were village heads under the Panchayati Raj system. She married Shyam Charan Murmu, a banker who died in 2014. The couple had two sons, both of whom died, and a daughter.
A graduate in arts, Murmu initially worked as an assistant professor at the Shri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research Institute, Rairangpur, Odisha. Subsequently, she worked as a Junior Assistant in the irrigation department of the Odisha Government.
She joined the BJP in 1997 and was elected as the councillor of the Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat. She became the Chairperson of Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat in 2000 and also served as the national vice-president of BJP Scheduled Tribes Morcha.
She won the Assembly election from the Rairangpur in 2000 and was re-elected from the same constituency. During the BJP and Biju Janata Dal coalition government, she was the Minister of State with Independent Charge for Commerce and Transportation (March 6, 2000, to August 6, 2002) and Fisheries and Animal Resources Development (August 6, 2002, to May 16, 2004).
She was conferred Nilkantha Award for best MLA by Odisha Legislative Assembly in 2007. She became the first woman Governor of Jharkhand in May 2015 and served as the Governor till 2021.
As per the past record, the parties have cross-voted depending upon the candidate regardless of their affiliations. In 2007 Pratibha Patil the UPA and left parties nominee became India’sIndia’s first woman President with 638116 votes against BJP candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who secured 331306 votes. The Shiv Sena, then part of NDA, chose to back Patil, being a Maharashtrian and the First Woman Presidential candidate.
Similarly, in 2012, the UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee became the 13th President, polling 713763 votes against NDA’sNDA’s late P A Sangma with 315987 votes. That time too, the Shiv Sena voted for Pranab Mukherjee. There have been quite a few such exceptions.
Yashwant Sinha, basically from Patna (Bihar), joined active politics as a member of the Janata Party after resigning from the IAS in 1984. He was appointed the party’s all-India general secretary in 1986 and was elected a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1988. When the Janata Dal was formed in 1989, Sinha, a founding member was appointed the party’sparty’s general secretary. He later joined the BJP.
He was the Union finance minister in the NDA’s first full-term government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998 to 2002). Before that, he had also held that portfolio in Chandra Shekhar’sShekhar’s Cabinet (November 1990 to June 1991). He quit the BJP on April 21, 2018.
He joined the TMC in March 2021 but left the party last month after he was selected as the joint Opposition candidate for the President’sPresident’s position. He has been a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi-led NDA.
The election of the 64-year-old Draupadi Murmu to the top position in the country will steer forward the growth of the tribal community. As of now, the numbers are stacked in her favour, and she is expected to win the polls comfortably.
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