On June 21, Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) National Democratic Alliance (NDA) announced former Governor of Jharkhand Draupadi Murmu as its Presidential candidate for the upcoming elections scheduled for July 18, 2022.
A tribal leader from Odisha, Murmu has held several key positions throughout her illustrious political career, including the post of Jharkhand Governor which she served from 2015 to 2021. Besides being the first woman Governor of Jharkhand, she is the first woman and tribal leader from Odisha to be appointed a governor in an Indian state.
However, as the news of Murmu being nominated as a Presidential candidate made its way, the left-leaning liberals on social media websites appeared stung by the prospect that a leader from the marginalised community is almost on the verge of becoming the President of the country, and made gross insinuations against her candidature. However, behind judgments that might suit one’s own politics, lies the story of a self-made woman, who is all set to occupy the highest position of the republic.
But that did not deter left-wing supporters on social media, especially on Twitter, from making insinuations against the tribal leader in what appeared as nothing but an egregious attempt to undermine her candidature. Some Twitter trolls glossed over her humble beginnings by deriding her as a ‘Sanghi’—a reference often used by the leftists against those who do not conform to their worldview. Below are examples of not just how liberals are suffering a meltdown over the nomination of a tribal woman leader but how low they can plunge to undermine their ideological rivals.
By demeaning Murmu’s RSS roots, an attempt to obfuscate her tribal identity was being carried out. Going further, another Twitter user wrote that it is ‘unfortunate’ that India’s first tribal president is the choice of a ‘conservative’ party. While BJP was merited to give representation to a tribal woman, Murmu was called a ‘puppet of RSS’. The user further wrote that Murmu would do no good for the ‘Adivasi’ community.
In this case, it could be seen that Ambedkarites/Periyarites who are perplexed at seeing Murmu as a Presidential candidate cannot target her given her tribal background. However, she is robbed of her agency of having a political ideology independent of the caste identity politics and supporting the Hindu Nationalist BJP. Droupadi Murmu, who worked towards the upliftment of the tribal community in Odisha, also served and led various positions at the BJP’s ST Morcha since 2002. But for the self-proclaimed supporters of Ambedkar and custodians of caste identity politics, she was just a ‘Sanghi’ who deserved their contempt and scorn.
To the left/Congress-oriented political analysts, individual representation of Murmu being selected for President did not matter much. Because as an individual, Murmu has been a longstanding BJP member and has worked for the tribals inside the RSS ecosystem. Hence casting aspersions upon her Presidency, that she would not do much for the community even before she has filed a nomination is a lowly yardstick to hold.
While some called the move a ‘token representation’, Congress’ Puducherry handle went further to call Draupadi Murmu a ‘dummy’. It is imperative to ask why did it then take Seventy-five years for a tribal woman to rise to the highest office if the representation of the marginalised was so easy to achieve. To put things in perspective, the BJP-led NDA’s 2017 Presidential candidate was Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit and the 2014 Prime Ministerial candidate was Narendra Modi, an OBC by caste category.
This reality of ideal representation for all sections of the society under the Narendra Modi government since 2014, has rattled the lazy leftist notion of the saffron party as a clique of Brahmin-Banias. With the elevation of Droupadi Murmu, not only her political and administerial credentials have been credited, but her humble background of starting from a tribal family in Odisha has also been acknowledged.
Another way, in which Draupadi Murmu’s calibre is being contested is because of her affinity to the RSS. While her tenure is even yet to start off, the scrutiny is over her political affiliations with the BJP, ‘despite’ being a tribal woman. Many individuals on Twitter conflated this with the tenure of APJ Abdul Kalam and Ram Nath Kovind.
Droupadi Murmu, a self-made individual with a politics of her own, is reaching the highest office in the country only while being in the BJP for long years. While her identity matches with those who play politics over the SC/STs, her ideology doesn’t. For a woman to be judged over motivated preconceived notions, even before she proves her mettle could only be accounted as misogyny of the worst kind, on the part of commentators.
Meanwhile, the nation gears up to see its first tribal woman becoming not just the President of this republic, but also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Droupadi Murmu is expected to file her nomination for the Presidential elections on June 24, 2022.