The poor in India can dream, says its first tribal president

Draupadi Murmu, India’s first President from a marginalized tribal community, said after taking oath on Monday that her election was an “achievement for every poor person in the country”.

Murmu’s Height India’s highest constitutional post has been seen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an important gesture of goodwill to the communities that make up more than eight percent of its 1.4 billion people, ahead of a general election due by 2024.

Murmu, a former teacher and minister of state for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is the second woman to hold a primarily ceremonial role of president. He was born in a poor family of Santhal tribe in the eastern state of Odisha.

Members of parliament and state assemblies last week elected Murmu for a five-year term after being nominated by the BJP.

“My election is proof that the poor in India can dream and make them come true,” Murmu, 64, said in a speech in Parliament after taking the oath of office.

“It is a matter of great satisfaction for me that those who have been deprived for centuries and who have been denied the benefits of development, those poor, downtrodden, backward and tribals are seeing their reflection in me.”

Modi saw Murmu’s swearing-in as “an important moment for India, especially for the poor, marginalized and downtrodden”.

The President of India serves as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces but the Prime Minister has executive powers.

The president can play an important role during political crises, such as when a general election is inconclusive, by deciding which party is best positioned to form the government.