Tribal leader elected as President of India

Lawmakers are voting on India’s next president in an election expected to be won by a tribal woman from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Draupadi Murmu election is said to be a mere formality as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP controls enough seats in the federal and state legislatures to promote its favored candidate.

Ms Murmu is also likely to have the support of other regional parties in state councils.

The President in India is chosen by an electorate consisting of legislators in both houses of parliament and elected members of legislative assemblies of all states.

A lawmaker casts her vote during India’s presidential election at Parliament House in New Delhi (AP) (AP)

The president’s role is largely ceremonial, but the position can be important in times of political turmoil such as a hung parliament, when the office assumes greater power.

Votes from Monday’s election will be counted on Thursday.

Mr. Modi’s party has projected Ms Murmu as a representative leader for poor tribal communities, which often lack healthcare and education facilities in remote villages.

Mrs. Murmu, 64, is from the eastern part of Odisha state and was previously the governor of Jharkhand state.

If elected, she would become the first tribal president and the second female president of India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes waves after voting (AP) (AP)

Ms. Murmu’s main rival is a former BJP rebel, a candidate put forward by a divided opposition. Yashwant Sinha, 84, was finance minister in the previous BJP government from 1998 to 2002.

He left the party after falling out with Mr. Modi over economic issues in 2018.

The winner will replace Ram Nath Kovind, a leader from the Dalit community, the community at the lowest end of the complex hierarchy in Hinduism.

Kovind, 76, is also a longtime associate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or National Volunteer Corps, a Hindu nationalist group that has long been accused of fomenting religious hatred against Muslims again. He has been president since 2017.

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