By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, July 22, 2022: As Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers celebrated Droupadi Murmu’s election as India’s 15th President in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district on Thursday, flex billboards were put up too – by a worried Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

Concerned over possible inroads that the BJP was making among tribals, the ruling party in the state put up posters of Murmu tying a rakhi to chief minister Naveen Patnaik. The billboards also highlighted Murmu’s speech during her welcome ceremony, wherein she likened herself to Goddess Subhadra and Patnaik to Lord Jagannath, the elder sibling at the famous Jagannath temple.

The billboards, besides a social media campaign, were part of a concerted effort by the BJD to ensure that the narrative in the state was that the ruling party was part of the decision to pick Murmu for the top constitutional post.

BJD MLA Basanti Hembram, a tribal, pointed to a tweet of Patnaik supporting Murmu, immediately after the announcement of her candidature, where the chief minister said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken to him over the 64-year-old’s nomination.

“When her name was announced, BJP did not have the numbers on its own to get her elected. It was only after the BJD came out in support of her that the YSR Congress and other parties came around. We are going to tell the people that we are as proud of Murmu as the BJP is,” Hembram said.

In the Presidential poll, which was held on July 18 and whose results were declared on Thursday, Murmu received 64.03% votes. Her rival, opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha, received 1,877 or 35.97% votes, according to data from the Rajya Sabha secretariat.

Apart from NDA constituents, Murmu — a former governor of Jharkhand — also managed to breach the Opposition ranks by securing the support of parties such as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Bahujan Samaj Party. In all, 2,824 MPs and state legislators voted in favour of her.

With polls to Lok Sabha and the state assembly due in less than two years, Murmu’s election as President is being seen as BJP’s bid to woo the tribal community.

In the 2019 polls, the BJP had won six out of nine assembly seats in Mayurbhanj.

However, of the 35 tribal seats in the 147-member assembly, the BJP had won only 11 while BJD won 20.

In the five Lok Sabha seats reserved for tribals, BJP and BJD won two seats each in the 2019 general elections.

To counter the efforts of the BJP, the state government is pushing for 100 per cent land rights to tribals through the Forest Rights Act (FRA), BJD leaders said.

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