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Odisha’s tale of two presidents

New Delhi: On Thursday, Droupadi Murmu entered the golden pages of history after registering an impressive victory against Yashwant Sinha to become the 15th President of India.

The first tribal woman to reach the highest constitutional office in India comes from Odisha’s tribal heartland of Mayurbhanj district. Murmu, however, isn’t the first President-elect from the state. In 1969, VV Giri from Odisha’s Berhampur had secured the seat to become the fourth President of India.

Let’s take a look at the two presidents from the eastern coastal state. Droupadi Murmu’s journey to the top office Murmu was born on 20 June, 1958, in Uparbeda village under Kusumi Tehsil of Mayurbhanj district in Odish.

Coming from the Santhal community, Murmu struggled with poverty in her early years in one of the most remote and underdeveloped districts of the country. According to Odisha TV, Murmu passed her matriculation from the Unit II Girl’s High School in 1974.

She studied there for three years (Class 8, 9 and 10) before joining Rama Devi Women’s College in Bhubaneswar for a bachelor’s degree in Arts.

She worked as a junior assistant in the Odisha government’s irrigation and power department from 1979 to 1983, before joining Sri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre, Rairanpur as a teacher in 1994.

Her political journey started with joining BJP in 1997 and being elected as a councillor in Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat. In 2000, she became the chairperson of Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat and also served as the National Vice-President of BJP Scheduled Tribes Morcha.

During the BJP and Biju Janata Dal coalition government in Odisha, Murmu served at several posts as a Minister. As per Business Standard, she has been an MLA twice on a BJP ticket from Odisha’s Rairangpur (2000 and 2009).

She held on to her seat when BJD snapped ties with BJP in the 2009 elections. She continued rising through the ranks in the BJP as well as the government.

Murmu was elected as BJP’s district president of the Mayurbhanj (West) unit in 2010, and she was re-elected in 2013. The leader was also named as a BJP National Executive (ST Morcha) member the same year.

Droupadi Murmu took oath as the Governor of Jharkhand, becoming the first woman to hold the office in the state. Murmu’s personal life has been marked with tragedies as she lost her husband Shyam Charan Murmu and two sons.

VV Giri, the first President from Odisha Even as the state and the country celebrate Murmu’s victory, it is an appropriate time to remember the first President from Odisha, Varahagiri Venkata Giri.

Popularly known as VV Giri, he was born and brought up in Berhampur city in Ganjam district. After completing his graduation from the Khallikote College, now a university, he went to Ireland to study law at the University College Dublin.

Though Giri was born and brought up in Berhampur, his political activities started in what was then Madras and he eventually became the Union labour minister. Giri served as the president from 24 August, 1969, to 24 August, 1974. After the end of his term, he was given Bharat Ratna in 1975. He defeated Congress nominee Neelam Sanjiva Reddy to become the president.

Giri has remained the only president in India’s history to have emerged victorious with a margin of less than one lakh votes. He is also the only president so far who bagged less than 50 per cent of the total votes.

He served as the third vice president of the country from 1967-69. Following president Zakir Hussain’s death, Giri served as acting president from 3 May to 20 July, 1969.