The Bharatiya Janata Party’s parliamentary board on Tuesday named Droupadi Murmu, the party’s tribal leader from Odisha, as the ruling National Democratic Alliance’s candidate for the presidential election.
BJP president J P Nadda announced her name at a press conference following a meeting of the party’s top brass.
Murmu (64), a former Jharkhand governor, will be the first tribal woman to occupy the top constitutional post if she is elected, a strong possibility as the numbers are stacked in favour of the BJP-led NDA.
The Opposition had, earlier in the day, announced former Union minister Yashwant Sinha as its joint candidate for the post.
The presidential election is slated for July 18.
Soon after Murmu was named as the BJP-led NDA's presidential candidate on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the former Jharkhand governor has devoted her life to serving society and expressed confidence that she will be a "great President".
"Droupadi Murmu Ji has devoted her life to serving society and empowering the poor, downtrodden as well as the marginalised," Modi said on Twitter.
She has rich administrative experience and had an outstanding gubernatorial tenure, he said.
"I am confident she will be a great President of our nation," Modi said.
Millions of people, especially those who have experienced poverty and faced hardships, derive great strength from the life of Droupadi Murmu, the prime minister said.
"Her understanding of policy matters and compassionate nature will greatly benefit our country," Modi added.
Considered a soft-spoken and affable leader who comes from Mayurbhanj, one of the more backward regions of Odisha, Murmu has held various positions in the party rising through the ranks and was a minister in the state when the BJP was in alliance with the ruling Biju Janata Dal.
Known for taking decisions with an eye on the larger political message, the BJP is hopeful that Murmu's candidature will help its reach among tribals not only in her home state but also across the country as it has continuously strived to woo various disadvantaged communities to good political results.
She will be the first President, if elected, born after independence. Modi has often spoken about being the first prime minister born after India gained freedom and used the plank to reach out to the masses.
She is likely to draw support from several non-NDA regional parties, including Odisha's ruling Biju Janata Dal, and even an opposition party like Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which is in power in Jharkhand with the Congress, may find it hard to oppose her as the party identifies itself the cause of tribals.
Nadda told reporters that around 20 names were discussed by the party leadership for the presidential candidate before it decided to pick someone from the eastern region and a tribal and woman.
He said the ruling party wanted a consensus choice for the next President but it could not happen as the Opposition went ahead by naming its own candidate.
Nadda noted that Union minister Rajnath Singh and he had spoken to various party leaders, including those from the Opposition, to reach a consensus but in vain. The BJP had spoken to its allies about the candidature of Murmu, he added.
A former government official who later switched to politics, she is likely to file her nomination in a few days, with June 29 being the last date.
Incidentally, her name was also doing the rounds for the BJP's likely choice for the top constitutional post in 2017 but Kovind had then emerged as its pick.