A woman who hails from a minority ethnic community, Droupadi Murmu has been chosen as Indiaâs new president, a largely ceremonial position.
Droupadi Murmu, a leader from Indiaâs ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, was elected by the Indian Parliament and state legislatures in voting held Monday, making her the first president from one of the countryâs tribes and the second-ever woman to hold the position.
She will be formally sworn in as the president on Monday.
Murmu, 64, who hails from the eastern state of Odisha and was governor of Jharkhand state from 2015-2021, is a member of the Santal ethnic minority, one of Indiaâs largest tribal groups. She started out as a school teacher before entering politics and has been a two-time lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modiâs party.
Murmuâs father and her grandfather were village headmen in Baidaposi in Mayurbhanj district in Odisha.
Modi congratulated Murmu by visiting her at her residence in New Delhi, and in a tweet wrote he was âcertain she will be an outstanding President who will lead from the front and strengthen Indiaâs development journey.â
âHer record victory augurs well for our democracy,â Modi tweeted.
Murmuâs supporters and Modiâs BJP party see her win as a triumph of tribal people and a breakthrough moment for her community, which generally lacks health care and education facilities in remote villages. Opposition parties, however, are doubtful whether she would be able to help empower and bring any change to the marginalized community.
The presidentâs role in India is largely ceremonial, but the position can be important during times of political uncertainty such as a hung parliament, when the office assumes greater power. She is bound by the advice of the Cabinet led by the prime minister, who is the chief executive.
She will replace Ram Nath Kovind, a Hindu nationalist leader from the Dalit community, which is at the lowest end of Hinduismâs complex caste hierarchy. Kovind has been president since 2017.
Murmu won against her opponent, Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP rebel who quit the party following differences with Modi on economic issues in 2018. Since then, Sinha has been a vocal critic of Modi and his government.
Indian lawmakers will vote for the countryâs new vice president in August.