Shillong: Droupadi Murmu on Thursday scripted history by becoming the first tribal to be elected as the President after two tribal leaders from the Northeastern state of Meghalaya had failed to make it to occupy the Raisina Hills.
Murmu, a tribal Santhal leader from Odisha and also the first tribal woman in India, was nominated by the ruling BJP-led NDA and defeated the opposition-backed candidate Yashwant Sinha, who congratulated her on the victory.
Late Purno Agitok Sangma fought for the top constitutional post and campaigned aggressively after his candidature was proposed by BJD, AIADMK and backed by the BJP. He, however, lost to Pranab Mukherjee who was the UPA’s candidate.
Sangma, a tribal Garo leader from the western part of Meghalaya, had wanted a tribal to hold the post, but unfortunately, he was not successful in fulfilling that dream.
Although, Sangma failed to win the present election but prophesied that “soon India would have a tribal President.”
But before Sangma, the only other time a tribal stood for the top post was also a person from the region and from the tribal-dominated state of Meghalaya.
In 1992, late George Gilbert Swell, a tribal Khasi from the eastern part of Meghalaya, was nominated as the Presidential candidate by the BJP and other opposition parties with the Congress in power. Swell lost to Congress’ Shankar Dayal Sharma, securing only 346,485 votes against his opponent’s 675,864 votes.
Swell was the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha apart from serving as the Ambassador of India to Norway and Iceland. In all these three elections there was another thing that was common, it was the BJP that nominated or supported a tribal for President.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who is also the youngest of the Sangma, has termed Murmu’s victory a “historic”.
“It was indeed a great and historic moment in the history of this country where the president’s post is now being held by a tribal woman. And this was something that was in some ways, inconceivable many, many years back. And today, the fact that this is happening shows how this great condition of ours is moving forward in the right direction and I would like to thank all the people who voted for Murmu to become the president of this country,” Conrad said.
The Chief Minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders for Murmu’s victory.
“At this point in time, I also remember my late father who was somebody who truly believed in this and was a person who laid the foundation for this idea and this thought and today to see it. He would have been the proudest person in this country today,” he said
Meanwhile, apart from the northeast, several states having large tribal populations would have reason to smile. According to reports, India has the second highest concentration of tribal population after Africa.
There are over 570 tribes in India and tribals constitute about 8 per cent of the total population in India. There are about 90 million people who are tribals also known as Adivasis.