While marking the first-ever ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas’ or Tribal Pride Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 15 last year had reached out to tribal people, inaugurating the Birsa Munda Museum in Ranchi, Jharkhand, as well as a slew of welfare schemes in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
The PM said that as the country celebrated 75 years of Independence next year, it had been decided to honour the contributions of tribal people. “For this, a historic decision has been taken that from today, every year the country will celebrate November 15, that is, the birth anniversary of Bhagwan Birsa Munda as ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas,” he stated.
Early this year, Modi launched multiple key initiatives for the welfare of “Janjatiya community” (tribes) at “Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas Mahasammelan” in Madhya Pradesh. “For the first time in the country after Independence, on such a large scale, the art-culture of the entire country’s tribal society, their contribution to the freedom movement and nation building is being remembered and honoured with pride,” the Prime Minister said, adding that as “the country is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, commemorating 75 years of India’s independence, with freedom struggle, and ideas, achievements, actions and resolve at 75, are the five pillars of the 75 week-long celebrations, it is our duty to bring the inspiring stories of tribal heroes and heroines in the freedom struggle before the country and to introduce them to the new generation.”
Little did the political analysts realise that in stating all this, Prime Minister Modi was hinting of doing something really big this year. I think the Prime Minister had made up his mind last year that India’s new President would be a tribal. So, it is not exactly a typical Modi type decision – going against the dominant trend and throwing up a surprise, and in the process outfoxing all the political adversaries – that Ms Draupadi Murmu from Odisha will be India’s next President. I think that we political analysts failed in reading what was there in the mind of the Prime Minister.
With Modi’s choice of Ms. Murmu, Opposition-sponsored candidate for the post of President Yashwant Sinha, a person with vast bureaucratic and political experience, which saw him being the country’s finance and external affairs minister and a person who is arguably one of the staunchest supporters-turned-critics of the Prime Minister, now will “also run” for the sake of formality. In fact, the Opposition’s calculation of wooing away Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has now boomeranged. On the other hand, it is very much in cards that in Jharkhand, the ruling JMM, one of Opposition alliance’s key constituents, will break ranks and support Ms. Murmu, who is a former Governor of the state.
Ms. Murmu is also going to be the second woman President, the first one being the late Pratibha Patil. At a time when all over the world, there are demands for woman-empowerment, including political representation, a woman in India being promoted by Prime Minister Modi is a deft political move.
Above all, the choice of Ms. Murmu is Modi’s masterstroke as far as the social engineering of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is concerned. Under Modi’s supreme leadership, the party is no longer perceived to be urbancentric and upper caste-dominated. In fact, the BJP today is thriving because of its rapidly expanding rural base, with the support of women, extremely backward castes (EBC), Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Incidentally, the Presidential election in India takes place the year Modi’s home state Gujarat goes for Assembly polls. With the choice of Ms. Murmu as the country’s next president, the BJP can legitimately claim in Gujarat that the tribal community, for whom 27 seats are reserved in the 182-member Assembly, is being politically empowered by the Prime Minister. This message will remain equally relevant when Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya, all home to a significant number of tribals, go to the polls next year.