View: Draupadi Murmu’s candidature is a reflection of BJP’s ‘Sab Ka Sath Sab Ka Vikas’ model

Presidential polls do not evoke much popular enthusiasm in a parliamentary democracy like India, primarily because of the fact that the President is the Constitutional Executive Head of the State and does not exercise the kind of powers which Presidents exercise in a Presidential system prevalent in countries like the United States of America.

Nevertheless, election of the President has its significance for the political system as a whole. Although the 42 nd Amendment Act, 1976 stipulates that the executive powers of the President shall be exercised in accordance with the advice of his Council of Ministers, the office of the President is a prestigious one because the incumbent represents the Indian state, both internally and externally.

In view of the esteemed constitutional status conferred on the office of the President, his/her election stimulates interesting academic and mass media discourses. Intense political parleys before the Presidential polls is a common phenomenon and both the ruling coalition as well as the opposition parties have been weighing their options over the last few days.

The BJP-led NDA coalition at the Centre by virtue of its comfortable majority is capable of ensuring smooth sailing for its candidate. However, it had initiated a process of consultations with opposition parties in its quest for a consensus candidate. Meanwhile, the opposition had embarked on its own exercise by proposing quite a few names. Initially, the candidature of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was proposed.

Presidential elections 2022: Droupadi Murmu or Yashwant Sinha; who will win the race to Raisina Hill?

NDA led by BJP today zeroed in on Draupadi Murmu as their pick for the upcoming Presidential election on July 18. Once elected, she will become the first tribal president of India. On the other hand, opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha’s nearly four-decade-old political life has been marked by bureaucratic efficiency and close association with top leaders. So who will win the race to Raisina Hill? Watch.

On his refusal to run for Presidency, the opposition explored the options of fielding either National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah or former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi. Both declined the offer and eventually the opposition picked former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha as its candidate for the Presidential polls. An erstwhile BJP leader, Sinha had his differences with the current party leadership and had formally joined the All India Trinamool Congress. Irrespective of his prospects in the ensuing elections, this gives an opportunity to Sinha to settle scores with his former party.

Finally, Draupadi Murmu, former Jharkhand Governor and tribal leader of the BJP from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, has emerged as the NDA’S Presidential nominee. This is a political masterstroke in the sense that the BJP-led NDA has played three trump cards by proposing her candidature. She is tribal, woman and hails from a poor economic background. All three indicators place her in the marginalized category.

Her nomination has already evoked a sense of pride and euphoria in Odisha and will ensure the spontaneous support of not only Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, but also of legislators cutting across party lines. If elected, she will be the first tribal woman to hold the highest office of the land.

Her elevation is likely to boost the BJP’s claim as a champion of the socially and economically marginalized sections in general and of women empowerment in particular. The choice also reflects the party’s strategy to widen and reinforce its social bases among the marginalized and amplifies its image as a genuinely national party.

As the NDA Presidential nominee, Draupadi Murmu’s election to the top constitutional office is a foregone conclusion. Her tenure will testify whether she acts as a custodian of the democratic rights and aspirations of all sections of the masses transcending the barriers of caste, class, gender and creed.

She will hold the highest office at a critical juncture when the nation encounters multiple challenges. While upholding constitutional values, she need not be a rubber stamp of the ruling dispensation, but may emulate some of her illustrious predecessors to emerge as a truly charismatic leader of the people.

(The author is a Professor, Department of Political Science, NEHU, Shillong)

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