On June 22, Draupadi Murmu reached Brahma Kumaris center at Rairangpur in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. Inmates of the centre, including its head, Brahma Kumari Supriya, were pleasantly surprised to see the presidential candidate of the BJP-led ruling alliance pay them a visit. The spiritually inclined Murmu, who could be India’s first tribal president, was at the center to offer prayers and meditate. The 64-year-old regularly practices Rajyoga and meditation. She became a devout follower of the Brahma Kumaris sect after being forced to face multiple personal tragedies. “Murmu remains as simple as before, despite the big announcement,” Supriya said. “We just celebrated his birthday a few days ago.”
Born on June 20, 1958 to a Santhali tribal family in the Uparbeda village of Mayurbhanj, Murmu has come a long way in life, with mixed experiences. His father, Biranchi Narayan Tudu, was a farmer who had studied up to grade five. Her mother had never been to school. With the help of her relatives, Murmu moved to Bhubaneswar as a child and completed her education there. She completed her BA in 1979 from Rama Devi Women’s College, which was upgraded to a university in 2015. Aparajita Chowdhury, the vice-chancellor of the university, said it was a great pride for the institution that Murmu could to be the next president. .
After completing her studies, Murmu joined the State Secretariat as a junior assistant. She got married to Shyam Charan Murmu, a bank officer, and the couple were blessed with a daughter. Happiness, unfortunately, was short-lived, as the girl met an untimely death. As she sank into depression, Murmu quit her job and moved to Rairangpur, where her husband was stationed. The couple went on to have two sons and a daughter.
Once the children started attending school, Murmu started teaching in a private school, but on an honorary basis. She also became involved in public life and began working for a tribal educational organization. She was gradually drawn to the BJP and was elected as a councilor for the Rairangpur urban body on the saffron party ticket in 1997. Three years later, she won the Rairangpur seat in the assembly polls after the BJP teamed up with the new Biju Janata Dal. launched by Naveen Patnaik. The BJD-BJP alliance took power and Murmu was appointed Minister of State with independent charge of trade and transport. She remained a minister until 2004 and an MP until 2009, when the BJP and BJD split.
It was the time when Murmu’s life turned to tragedy again. One of his sons died in mysterious circumstances in 2009 and the other died in a road accident three years later. Her husband died of cardiac arrest in 2014 and life looked bleak for Murmu and her daughter. And she turned to the Brahma Kumaris for solace.
Multiple tragedies turned her into a devout follower of the sect and she even suggested her daughter to remain celibate like the Brahma Kumaris. His daughter, who works in a nationalized bank in Bhubaneswar, is however married and has a child. Her husband is athletic.
After the BJP returned to power in Delhi under Narendra Modi, Murmu was appointed Governor of Jharkhand in 2015 and she completed her term in July 2021.
Murmu regularly visits the Rairangpur center of the Brahma Kumaris whenever she is in town. She is also a frequent visitor to the sect’s headquarters at Mount Abu in Rajasthan. “Murmu is an extremely dignified woman with strong values and uncompromising principles,” said Santosh Satpathy, her principal secretary when she was governor. Brahma Kumari Geeta, head of the organization’s Bhubaneswar centre, said Murmu’s life provided an example to all who faced challenges in life. “Looking at her personal tragedies and how she overcame depression, she would stand out as a great role model for everyone,” she said. “It shows that with the help of divine knowledge, anyone can face the world.”