In the first half of 2017, three north Indian states went to the polls. The result was a split verdict: BJP won in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand; Congress managed to eke out a victory in Punjab. But what’s also noteworthy is that more women than ever before stepped up as candidates.
In all three states, women led major parties as chief ministers. In fact, at the peak of campaigning, one question came up again and again: Can a woman really win an election? And now, we have a fourth state where women are making their presence felt: Jharkhand. Chief Minister Arka Koda resigned on July 26 after facing heat over alleged irregularities in granting mining licenses to private companies.
His resignation has opened up the field for new faces — and among them is Draupadi Murmu, who has been chosen as the new president of the Jharkhand Janata Mahasabha (JJM), which will be holding elections soon too. It is likely that she will take over from Koda as CM very soon.
The Warrior Princess
Draupadi Murmu has all the qualifications of the quintessential Indian woman. She hails from the tribal region of Jharkhand, which has a long history of women warriors. She comes from a family that is known for its commitment to social justice, even amid the struggles and threats that come with it.
She is the daughter of a woman who fought for the rights of tribal women and the wife of a man who was jailed for fighting for tribal land rights. But this princess also has a modern sensibility. She is a trained engineer who has worked in the mining industry. She is also a trained social worker who has stood for the cause of tribal women for years now.
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Why is Draupadi Murmu important?
Draupadi Murmu is important for multiple reasons. First, she is a symbol of the changing political landscape in India. In this election, we saw women from all sections of society — from the upper castes to the lower castes, from urban and rural areas, contesting. And in a few cases, they won too.
The reason why this is important is that it shows that Indian women have begun to enter the political arena. And this can only be a good thing. It’s also important to note that while more women than ever before ran for office, they still constitute a minority of the total. It would be useful nonetheless to understand what makes women win or lose.
What does her rise mean for women in Jharkhand?
Jharkhand has often been placed at the bottom of the Indian development index. This is primarily due to its large tribal population, which has been discriminated against for decades. The state has also witnessed the highest levels of gender-based violence in India. In fact, Jharkhand was ranked fourth in the list of states with the highest rates of violence against women.
Under Koda, who was serving his second term as CM, Jharkhand’s situation didn’t improve much. Instead, the state was plagued by corruption scandals and alleged links between the CM, his cabinet members and private mining companies. Under these circumstances, the rise of a tribal woman like Draupadi Murmu can only be a good thing.
The new CM will have the chance to do things differently. If she manages to put an end to gender-based violence and discrimination against tribal women, her rise will be a significant milestone in Indian politics.
But what does it mean for women across India?
Draupadi Murmu’s rise is significant not just for the people of Jharkhand, but also for people across India. Her rise marks a turning point — an important moment where women start to accept politics as a tool to bring about change. As mentioned earlier, more women contested in this election than ever before.
And this is also a significant trend that indicates a changing political landscape. Women have begun to see politics as a viable means to bring about change. In fact, for the first time in Indian history, a woman was nominated for the post of President of India.
Women continue to face an uphill battle.
While more women are entering politics, they still face an uphill battle. As the example of Draupadi Murmu’s rise shows us, the general election in Jharkhand is still a far cry from the ideal scenario. The Jharkhand Janata Mahasabha is a party that represents tribal interests, so it’s natural that its members would want the CM to come from among them.
However, the Jharkhand CM is always a representative of the majority — in this case, the Hindus. What does this mean for Murmu and other tribal candidates? It means that even if she is elected as CM, she will be denied her rightful place as head of the state.
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This situation is perhaps most evident in the case of Meira Kumar, who was nominated by the Congress party for the post of President. Kumar, who is from the upper caste, lost the election despite having significant support from the Opposition parties. This shows us the kind of discrimination women voters like Murmu are up against.
Can Draupadi Murmu win Presidential election?
Draupadi Murmu can win the presidential election — and she can even come close to winning. The reason why she can win is that the office of the President is a ceremonial position. The President is responsible only for the general wellbeing of her people. In the Jharkhand Mahasabha elections, Murmu is a shoo-in candidate.
As the new chief, she will be a favourite to become the next CM. In the presidential election, she has the backing of the Opposition parties. If these parties decide to come together to defeat the BJP, she can be a strong contender for the top job. If this happens, it will be a pioneering moment for Indian women in politics.
The country will have its first woman President — and a tribal woman at that. This election will be a remarkable milestone for Indian women’s political journey.
Why is this moment significant for women in Indian politics?
This moment is significant for women in Indian politics for a number of reasons. First, it has set a precedent — women have come very close to winning a top office. This is significant because it will show women aspiring to be political leaders that they can win too.
It will show that the office of President is not a far-fetched goal. Second, it will give people the idea that they can vote for office-bearers who actually represent them. Women like Meira Kumar and Draupadi Murmu are true representatives of the people. They are not just token representatives — they are people who have worked tirelessly for their communities, who understand the people they represent and what they need.
Third, it will show people that there is no place for gender discrimination in political office. It will show that even the top office-bearer in the country is not above criticism. It will show that women can take criticism as well as they can dish it out.
What does this tell us about women in politics?
This tells us that women are slowly but surely making their way into the male-dominated field of politics. However, it’s important to note that even in this new scenario, women still face obstacles. Women like Murmu and Kumar face resistance from political parties, who are still unaccustomed to women leaders.
But they are fighting these obstacles. They are not letting their gender come in the way of their rise to power. They are paving the way for future women leaders in India. If this trend continues, India will soon have a robust political leadership that is 50% women. This will be a significant milestone in Indian politics — and in the political history of the world.
Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu
Draupadi Murmu was appointed as the Governor of Jharkhand in August 2017. She was serving her last term as CM when President Ramnath Kovind appointed her as Governor of the state. This was after the Jharkhand High Court had asked the Centre to remove the current Governor, Draupadi Murmu.
The High Court had demanded the removal of Murmu after a mining company filed a case against her for allegedly delaying the grant of mining licenses. After her appointment as Governor, this had triggered a controversy as many people were surprised by the move. They claimed that Murmu was innocent and called the move an act of vengeance from the government.