India: investiture of Droupadi Murmu, first president of tribal origin

India’s new president Drupadi Murmuwas sworn into office on Monday, becoming the country’s first female head of state of tribal descent.

Last week, the candidate nominated by the Bharatiya Janata (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was elected to the presidency by the Parliament, with 64% of the votes of the deputies and the assemblies of the States of India.

Mrs. Murmu, member of the Santhal Indian tribehad collected, shortly before his investiture at the memorial dedicated to the hero of the independence of India, Mahatma Gandhiin New Delhi.

Born in the district of Mayurbhanjin the state of Odisha (west), the elected president began her career as a teacher before entering politics.

« My journey in life began in a small tribal village“Ms Murmu, 64, said after being sworn in before parliament.

« In the environment where I grew up, benefiting from a simple elementary education was like a dream for me.« , she continued, « but despite many obstacles, my determination remained fierce and I became the first girl in my village to enter university.« 

Mrs. Murmu is the second president of the country after Pratibha Patilwho held the position for five years from 2007. She succeeds Mr. Ram Nath Kovindsecond president from the dalit communityformerly called « the Untouchables« , at the bottom of the Hindu caste system.

Ms. Murmu’s victory was expected, given the weight of the BJP, its allies in parliament and state assemblies, which elect India’s head of state.

Analysts say the victory is likely to help Mr Modi expand his base in tribal communities, in view of his re-election in 2024.

« His assumption of the presidency is a watershed moment for India, especially for the poor, marginalized and oppressed“, wrote the Prime Minister Monday on Twitter.

According to Mrs. Murmu, her accession to the head of the country should give reasons for hope to those left out of India’s economic growth.

« It gives me great satisfaction that those who have been deprived for centuries, who have not benefited from the advantages of development (…) can recognize themselves in me“, she added.

The role of the president in India is largely ceremonial, with the prime minister and his government exercising executive powers, but the head of state can send back a few parliamentary bills for reconsideration and also help in the process of forming governments.

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