Why hasn’t the NDA nominee addressed a single press conference, asked Yashwant Sinha, the opposition’s candidate for President, this week. He had earlier asked the NDA nominee Draupadi Murmu, a Santhal from Odisha, to demand restoration of Legislative Assembly in Jammu & Kashmir; she should also affirm that as President she would oppose unconstitutional acts of the government, toppling games and defections, he dared.
With no Assembly in J&K, no MLA from the erstwhile state will vote in the Presidential election this time. But that did not deter Sinha from visiting the state, meet political leaders and support Kashmiris’ right to political voice and representation. Murmu’s handlers in the BJP saw no reason for her to visit J&K and seek support of non-existent legislators.
Inconvenient questions, however, are being raised. Even if Murmu, unlike Sinha, has not spoken against defections, toppling elected governments and the President’s duty to uphold the Constitution, will she even raise decisions that affect tribal interests?
Barely 10 days after the BJP announced her name as its candidate for President, the Union Government notified fresh Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022. The rules eliminated the need for obtaining the consent of forest dwellers or even the Gram Sabha of the villages concerned, required earlier before clearing forests for commercial exploitation. Was Murmu briefed or even consulted? It was not required under the law but with the BJP tom-tomming its decision to promote a tribal as President, the decision betrayed a certain degree of insensitivity. Is it taking Draupadi Murmu for granted?
As the Governor of Jharkhand, Murmu had indeed refused to give her consent when the then BJP chief minister Raghubar Das wanted to amend the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act.