NEW DELHI: The battlelines for the presidential election have been drawn. The contest will be between the ruling BJP-led NDA’s Droupadi Murmu and opposition’s Yashwant Sinha.
Murmu’s name as the NDA candidate was announced late Tuesday evening by BJP president JP Nadda at a press conference at the party headquarters after a meeting of senior leaders. He said Murmu’s candidature was selected among 20 candidates whose names had been short-listed.
Earlier in the day, Sinha’s name was declared as the opposition’s candidate. He is the vice-president of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Sinha gave the indication of his candidature in the morning. In a tweet, he said, “I am grateful to Mamataji for the honour and prestige she bestowed on me in the TMC. Now a time has come when for a larger national cause I must step aside from the party to work for greater opposition unity. I am sure she approves of the step.”

The presidential election will be held on July 18 and counting of votes is scheduled to take place on July 21.
Murmu, belonging to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, was the governor of Jharkhand – which is dominated by tribal population, till 2021. If she wins, Murmu will be India’s first tribal president. She will be the second woman president after Pratibha Patil who was on the coveted chair between 2007 and 2012.
By zeroing in on Murmu’s name, the BJP hopes to get the support not just from one of the non-NDA parties – Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD). The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand, though a part of Congress-led UPA, will also feel immense pressure to vote in favour of Murmu for two reasons.
First, JMM is a party dominated by STs. Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren himself belongs to the ST category. Secondly, Murmu is a former Jharkhand governor.
The contest for the president’s post will now take place between two leaders from the eastern part of India. Murmu was born in Odisha and was an MLA and also a minister in the state. Sinha was from Bihar but after the state’s division Hazaribagh became a part of Jharkhand.
Moreover, both the candidates have a Jharkhand connection. While Murmu was governor of the state, Sinha comes from the tribal-dominated state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been focussing on the East with his ‘Look East Policy’. In fact, this policy also includes the Northeast which is also dominated by the tribal population.
During Modi’s first stint, the NDA chose Ram Nath Kovind, who belongs to the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. In the second stint, the ruling formation has nominated an ST candidate.
Murmu has and will also have many firsts to her credit. If elected, Murmu will also be the first president from Odisha. She was 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 and complete her tenure.
Murmu has a humble personal background and a has a history of public service. Her life has been full of struggles. She was born in a tribal family struggling with poverty in one of the most remote and underdeveloped districts of the country.
She completed studies despite extreme circumstances. She taught in Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre, Rairangpur without salary.
She started her political career as Rairangpur NAC vice-chairperson.
Murmu was a star performer as MLA and was awarded as “Nilakantha Award” for The Best MLA of the year 2007 by Legislative Assembly of Odisha.
As a minister, she handled various ministries in Odisha such as transport and commerce. She has also served across various departments such as fisheries and animal husbandry.
PM Modi hailed Murmu’s choice as a presidential candidate. He posted two tweets in her support.
He said, “Smt Droupadi Murmu Ji has devoted her life to serving society and empowering the poor, downtrodden as well as the marginalised. She has rich administrative experience and had an outstanding gubernatorial tenure. I am confident she will be a great President of our nation.”

“Millions of people, especially those who have experienced poverty and faced hardships, derive great strength from the life of Smt. Droupadi Murmu Ji. Her understanding of policy matters and compassionate nature will greatly benefit our country,” he added.
As far as Yashwant Sinha is concerned, he was a Union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government till 2004. He was one of the BJP leaders who were against Narendra Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
He started dissenting after he was denied a Lok Sabha ticket from his seat of Hazaribagh. The party not only gave the ticket to his son Jayant Sinha from the same seat but also made him a Union minister of state in Modi’s first stint as PM. Jayant Sinha became MP from Hazaribagh for the second time on a BJP ticket in 2019 though he was not included in the Union council of ministers.
However, Sinha kept venting out against the BJP and its top leaders such as Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. He finally quit the party to lend support to Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for a while before switching over to TMC.
He will hope to get the support from the opposition parties such as the Congress, TMC, Samajwadi Party, NCP, PDP and RJD.

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