The tribal heartland in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha on Thursday erupted into frenzied celebrations as National Democratic Alliance candidate Droupadi Murmu registered an impressive victory to become the 15th President of India.
In every corner of Odisha, leaders and people congratulated each other and offered sweets, elated at Ms. Murmu, the first tribal woman and daughter of the soil, becoming the next Head of State of India.
Even the Odisha Legislative Assembly, which is in session, broke into impromptu celebrations as Biju Janata Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs distributed sweets among each other and staff members. Dressed in traditional attire, many tribal MLAs were seen dancing on the streets to rejoice at Ms. Murmu’s victory.
“This is a historic moment in the life of everyone irrespective of they being tribal or non-tribal in Odisha. We are proud of Ms. Murmu who hails from this remote part of India. It is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. The celebration is not going to be over in a day. It could stretch on for months and even a year,” said Gopal Besra, who hails from Tiring, on Odisha-Jharkhand border.
At her native village Uparbeda and husband’s village Pahadpur, tribal people performed traditional dance to the rhythmic beat of drums. Dancers were moving in circle or semi-circle formations with arms interlocked. Their foot movement was harmonious.
In the run-up to counting of votes, 10 quintals of laddus were prepared at Rairangpur, home town of the former Governor of Jharkhand, for mass distribution. The small town was decorated with colourful lights and flooded with banners congratulating the daughter of soil.
From the morning, students of Sri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research Institute, Rairangpur, where she worked as a teacher for a brief period, and schools at Uparbeda and Bhubaneswar, where she had studied, congregated to cherish the moment.
“With she becoming the President of India, every institute that she was part of during her lifetime has become special and entered into history books. The excitement among students, teachers and all staff cannot be expressed in words,” said Rabindra Patnaik, a member of the institute’s management committee.
“She is my aunt. We feel very proud and happy for her. Her identity is no more associated with Pahadpur or Uparbeda. It has transcended beyond India. All over the world, she would be known as President of India,” said Braja Mohan Murmu, nephew of Ms Murmu.
Many referred the journey of Ms. Murmu from Rairangpur to Raisina Hill to resilience of a woman who worked her way through the cadre, and emerged stronger by overcoming personal tragedies.
Born in remote Uparbeda village in Mayurbhanj district, Ms. Murmu completed her primary education in the village before moving to Bhubaneswar for higher education. She pursued her academic career at a time when girls’ education was seen as a taboo. After completing graduation, she joined the State government as a clerk at Bhubaneswar. Ms. Murmu shifted to Rairangpur and joined as a teacher in a local school.
In 1998, she was persuaded to fight urban local body elections. She not only won the councillor post, but also went on to become vice-chairperson of the Rairangpur Notified Area Council. Subsequently, she won the Assembly election from the Rairangpur constituency in 2000 and 2004. She unsuccessfully fought the Lok Sabha election from Mayurbhanj in 2009 and lost the Rairangpur Assembly poll in 2014.
As electoral setbacks were not enough, Ms. Murmu faced back-to-back personal tragedies. Between 2009 and 2014, she lost two sons under unfortunate circumstances and later her husband and mother. The eldest daughter had died very early after few years of her marriage. She has only one daughter left. However, the President-elect overcame the heartbreaks, and went on to complete one of the most successful governorships of Jharkhand. The rest is history now.
“As a teacher, I am fortunate that I played a part in initiating Droupadi into studies. She was very bright. We could identify her leadership quality from her childhood days. Her father used to be the village head and established the school at her native place. She will definitely prove herself at the highest constitutional position of India,” said Basudev Behera, Ms. Murmu’s teacher.