India: BJP backs tribal politician Draupadi Murmu for president against former ally | News | DW

Indian lawmakers began the process of selecting the country’s next president by voting on Monday.

They choose between Draupadi Murmu, appointed by the ruling alliance, and Yashwant Sinha, who is supported by the opposition parties.

Veteran tribal politician Murmu enjoys the support of the ruling centre-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

His appointment has great symbolic significance for the tribal communities of India. If elected, she would also be the second woman to hold this high office. The only female President of India to date was Pratibha Devisingh Patil from 2007 to 2012.

Murmu, 64, was born in the eastern state of Odisha, where she first won elections as a state councillor. She later joined mainstream politics and served as a legislator and governor of the eastern state of Jharkhand.

Even though the actual voting results won’t be announced until July 21, Murmu is expected to become the country’s next president with the backing of the BJP and party support in the state assemblies, experts say.

Who is Murmu’s rival, Yashwant Sinha?

A fractured opposition has nominated Yashwant Sinha, a former finance and foreign minister, as a presidential candidate.

Drapuadi Murmu (left) is expected to garner more votes from lawmakers than opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha

Sinha, 84, served as a minister in the first BJP-led governments of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the late 1990s and 2000s.

He quit the BJP party in 2018, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was undermining the country’s democratic institutions.

Sinha faces an uphill battle as the opposition has been unable to decisively anchor support from non-BJP parties.

Several candidates nominated by the opposition have even rejected nominations for the presidential post in the run-up to the presidential election.

How do presidential elections work in India?

The President of India is chosen by members of both houses of parliament as well as members of the legislatures of all states and union territories.

Current Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s term ends on July 25, when the new president is due to be sworn in.

The country’s constitution requires lawmakers to hold the presidential office before the incumbent president’s term ends.

The President of India is a largely ceremonial position, and executive powers are exercised by the Prime Minister and his cabinet under the Indian constitution.

However, the position is very prestigious. The president can play a key role during a political crisis by deciding which party can best form a federal government when the general election is inconclusive and has the power to grant pardons on death row.

rm/dj (Reuters, AP)

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