Draupadi Murmu took the oath of office on Monday and officially became India’s 15th president. The ceremony, which was broadcast live on Indian TV channels, took place in the central hall of the country’s parliament in New Delhi.
“I am fortunate to take up this post in the year of the 75th independence anniversary. We will have to intensify our efforts to live up to the hopes that our freedom fighters had for the citizens of independent India,” Murmu said in her first speech as president after being sworn in.
Murmu, born June 20, 1958, is the former governor of the state of Jharkhand. She comes from the Santal tribe (the largest Munda tribe) in the eastern state of Odisha. Murmu became the second woman president of India (the first was Pratibha Patil, who was in office in 2007-2012) and the first president from the so-called scheduled tribes (historically belonging to low castes).
She was also the first president of India to be born in a ‘free country’, that is, after that nation gained independence from the British in 1947.
“The strength of our democracy is that the daughter of a poor family, born in a remote tribal area, can reach the highest constitutional office in India. It is a great joy for me that those who have been deprived of the benefits of development for centuries, the poor, the Dalits (the official name of the lowest, ‘untouchable’ castes – TASS), the tribes see their reflection in me,” Murmu said in her speech.
The presidential election was held on July 18. The members of the upper (Rajya Sabha) and lower (Lok Sabha) houses of parliament took part in it, along with the members of legislative assemblies (regional parliaments) of 28 states and two union territories (in India only two of 8 union territories have legislative assemblies – Delhi and Puducherry), in total about 4,800 electors.
On July 21, the votes were counted and Murmu, representing the National Democratic Alliance led by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People’s Party), received more than 64% of the votes, far outstripping the representative of the united opposition, Yashwant Sinha.