‘Tribal at top, people will have faith (in system)’: In Murmu’s town, pride and hope

“Tribal people fear going to a police station or court… When they see a tribal person at the top post, they will have some faith. Glass ceilings will be broken,” says Itishree Murmu, daughter of NDA Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu.

These sentiments of pride and hope echo across the streets and villages of Rairangpur municipality in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, the home of the 64-year-old Murmu, who, in all likelihood, will become India’s first tribal woman President.

Jharkhand, Jharkhand News, Murmu’s town, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India News Murmu at a Shiva temple in Rairangpur Wednesday. PTI

On Wednesday, Murmu, who is from Odisha’s Santhal community, left Rairangpur for Bhubaneswar; from there, she will take a flight to New Delhi.

Before that, she swept the floor of a nearby temple at the crack of dawn, a daily ritual she has been following since returning in August 2021 after retiring as Jharkhand Governor.

Residents said scores of people lined up for a meeting with her at her house before she made the 285-km car journey to the state capital. The temple where she offered prayers was cordoned off by CRPF commandos.

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“The security personnel told her that she should curb her public interactions as she was a Presidential candidate. But she replied that these were her people and she owed her rise to them,” says Murmu’s sister-in-law, Sakramani Tudu, who lives with her.

In the municipality’s Uparbeda Panchayat, where Murmu was born, residents were elated. At a hutment, the Pradhan, Jamuna Hembrem, recalls Murmu’s stint as an MLA and minister, when she worked to build ‘pucca’ roads and a bridge to help people commute. Murmu was a minister in the BJD-BJP coalition government in Odisha from 2000 to 2004.

Uparbeda Panchayat has seven revenue villages with a population of 15,000. Residents say the population is mostly made up of Adivasi and OBC communities.

“Now, as a woman I ask my would-be President to help give the village a permanent doctor in the Primary Health Centre, jobs for the youth, a hostel for girls and a railway halt which would help the locals of the area… We are proud to have her and we want more,” says Hembrem.

In Murmu’s two-storey house, equipped with basic amenities, the guest room is full of framed photographs of her: the ones with the current President, Ram Nath Kovind, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi stand out.

President Ram Nath Kovind with Droupadi Murmu

Itishree says her mother broke down when she was informed of her candidature. “She has come a long way in making her way till here, on her own, breaking all social stigma. When she had gone to study in Bhubaneshwar before the nineties, there were no roads, no Google Maps to help people. She figured everything out on her own… She wants to give back to the people of India and to the tribal community.”

She added: “But she missed her two sons and her husband, who have passed away.”

Murmu had said Tuesday night: “I am surprised as well as delighted. As a tribal woman from remote Mayurbhanj district, I had not thought about becoming the candidate for the top post.”

“I was not expecting this opportunity. I have not been attending any political programmes for more than six years after becoming the governor of neighbouring Jharkhand. I hope all will support me,” she told reporters at the residence.

With the BJD backing her, Murmu’s path to the Presidency appears relatively straightforward. She now has around 52 per cent votes (around 5,67,000 votes) out of a total of 10,86,431 votes of all electors. The nominations can be filed till June 29 and the result of the election will be out on July 21.

Family members said Murmu worked as a teacher at the nearby Aurobindo School run by Aurobindo Integral Education and Research Centre before becoming a politician. Staffer Dilip Kumar Giri recounts: “I used to look after the management back then. Murmu taught students Hindi, Odiya, Maths and Geography etc, for free. We could see she wanted to always help others. There was so much compassion in her.”

Students Anil Lohra and Ashish Giri recall seeing Draupadi Murmu’s poster somewhere. Lohra says: “I have heard that she is going to become a big leader.” with pti inputs

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