NEW DELHI: Droupadi Murmu was not a frequent mobile phone user and probably "missed the most important call of her life" - that from the Prime Minister's Office to inform her about her nomination as the official NDA candidate for the president's post, claims a new book.
But her former officer on special duty in Jharkhand, Bikash Chandra Mohanto, came running to Murmu's house with his phone in hand, saying he had received a call apparently from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and was asked to connect with her.
This incident of June 21, 2022, finds mention in the biographical work "Droupadi Murmu: From Tribal Hinterlands to Raisina Hill" by journalist Kasturi Ray, published recently by Rupa.
Through interviews and analysis, Ray tracks Murmu's life, following her through school and college, from being a teacher to social worker, councillor to minister, from taking charge as the governor of Jharkhand to becoming India's first tribal president.
On that day in June last year, Murmu was in Odisha's Rairangpur, 14 km from her native village Uparbeda and nearly 275 km from capital Bhubaneswar.
The BJP was to announce the NDA's presidential candidate. All were waiting for an official announcement.
"Unfortunately, Murmu and her family were not able to watch the news because of a power cut. Yet the indications were apparent. The sense of serendipity was palpable," the book says.
A little later, television channels started broadcasting the news.
"As people gathered, she invited everyone in, met them and spoke to them. Not a frequent mobile phone user, she had kept hers away and probably missed many calls, including the most important one of her life. But as her daughter Itishree's phone was constantly ringing, Murmu managed to respond to a few," the book says.
But the official confirmation was still awaited.
"The hour of reckoning finally came when her former officer on special duty for a brief stint at Jharkhand and currently a medicine store owner in Rairangpur, Bikash Chandra Mohanto, came running to Murmu's house with his phone in hand.
"He had apparently received a call from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and was asked to connect with Murmu. Taken by surprise and unable to fathom the urgency, he lowered his store's shutter and rushed to Murmu's house to connect her to the PMO," the book says.
"She had not realised by then that she had missed the most important call of her life on her phone. Mohanto handed over his phone to Murmu with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the other end -they spoke," Ray writes in the book.
"She knew she was the NDA's choice as the presidential candidate. At a loss for words, Murmu expressed her doubt if she would be able to shoulder the responsibility as expected and Modi assured her that she could," she writes.
Much later, during a meeting of legislators and parliamentarians in Ranchi, Murmu said that the "prime minister told me that the way you groomed Jharkhand while being Governor of the State, I am confident that you will also be able to fulfill this responsibility quite efficiently".
On July 25, 2022, Murmu was administered the oath of office of the 15th President by the then Chief Justice of India N V Ramana.