The race to Rasina Hill is hotting up and the BJP has set up a panel to chose a candidate who will be the next President of India. With several names doing the rounds, including that of Najma Heptullah, many say that Narendra Modi's surprise pick could be Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu.
BJP sources say that the name of Murmu is high up on the list and if chosen, she could well become the first tribal President of India. Choosing Murmu as the Presidential candidate has a lot of advantages for the BJP. It would be a Dalit trump card and will also make it very difficult for the opposition to vote against her.
Who is Draupadi Murmu?
Draupadi Murmu, 58 hails from the Uparbheda village in Odisha. She has been the tribal face of the BJP in the state's Mayurbhanj district. She also is the first woman leader from Odisha to be appointed as Governor. She took charge as the Governor of Jharkhand two years back.
She began her political career in 1997 when she was elected councilor in the Rajrangpur district in Odisha. She was elected as MLA from the same constituency in 2000.
Prior to joining politics, she served as the honorary assistant teacher in Shri Aravindo Integral Education and Research, Rairangpur, and also as junior assistant in Irrigation Department.
She was also the National Executive Member of the ST Morcha of the BJP till 2009. Between 2000 and 2004, she held many ministerial portfolios in the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal government, having departments like Transport and Commerce along with Fisheries and Animal Husbandry under her supervision.
She was awarded the Nilakantha Award for best MLA of the year by the Odisha Assembly.
She also served as BJP district president of Mayurbhanj from 2002 to 2009 and also in 2013. She continued in that post until took over as the Governor of Jharkhand.
How the BJP gains in selecting Draupadi Murmu
The BJP has a lot to gain if it goes ahead with the candidature of Murmu. Firstly it would help the party shed its alleged anti-tribal image. It would also give the party an edge over its rivals in the upcoming Odisha Assembly elections.
Murmu's candidature would also give the BJP an edge in the Presidential elections to be held in July. The BJD would support Murmu's candidature if she is chosen. Moreover the joint opposition would also find it hard to vote against her.
Murmu's appointment as the Governor in 2015 was seen as a masterstroke by the BJP. It came at a time when tribal factions who were opposing the appointment of Raghubar Das, a non-tribal, as Chief Minister of the state, were promised to have voice through the Murmu's appointment.
The BJP feels in selecting Murmu, they would begin the Presidential poll campaign on an advantageous note. BJP sources say that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had himself suggested the name of Murmu to be the next President of India. For now it looks almost certain that Murmu's candidature would go through. However the BJP is known to spring a surprise.
Will it be T C Gehlot?
The other name doing the rounds is that of Thawar Chand Gehlot. BJP sources say that the name did come up for discussion. However no final call has been taken as yet.
Gehlot, born on 18 May 1948 is the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment in the Union Government led by Narendra Modi. He is a member of the Rajya Sabha representing the state of Madhya Pradesh. He formerly represented Shajapur in the lower house of Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha from 1996 to 2009. He is a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and general secretary of the party.
Sushma or Jaitley?
On Monday late into the night a source said that both Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley too had expressed their desire to be the next President of India. While Sushma's name has been under consideration, the BJP is highly unlikely to go ahead with the candidature of Jaitley. Sushma's stint as the External Affairs Minister may end after July owing to poor health conditions. A Cabinet reshuffle is on the cards after the next President of India is elected.
Next President of India: Election schedule:
- Date of notification: June 14 2017
- Last date for nominations: June 28
- Scrutiny of nominations: June 29
- Last date for withdrawal of nominations: July 1
- Election date: July 17 between 10 am and 5 pm
- Counting of votes: July 20