NDA presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu swept the floor of a Shiva temple in her locality here in this nondescript tribal-dominated town in Odisha's Mayurbhanj district at the crack of dawn on Wednesday ahead of her journey to Delhi.
It is a task she has done daily since she returned to her home town in August 2021 after her retirement as the governor of Jharkhand. Wednesday was no exception.
Hundreds of local residents saw the NDA presidential candidate with a broom in her hand and clad in an ivory coloured handloom saree with a red border sweeping the temple floor in the early hours between 3 and 4 am.
Like other days she offered her prayers at the temple after a bath and whispered into the ears of Nandi, the bull 'vahana' of Lord Shiva, a common practice, as hundreds of local residents looked on and the temple was cordoned by CRPF commandos provided to her after the Centre accorded her Z plus security cover.
The commandos took over the security of 64-year-old Murmu early on Wednesday morning, a senior officer told PTI.
When Murmu came out of the temple, she was surprised to find a large crowd despite the early morning hour. Two members of Iswariya Prajapati Brahmakumari organization also greeted her.
We have come here to greet Madam over her success and consider it as a blessing of the almighty on her, the members said.
After the temple rituals, she returned to her residence and met people and leaders of different political parties, including the ruling BJD in Odisha. However, opposition Congress leaders were not seen as the party is yet to take a decision on supporting the NDA candidate in the July presidential election.
Later when Murmu left for the 285 km journey to Bhubaneswar by road people of the town stood on both sides of it to have a glimpse of the woman vying for the topmost position in the country. Women and children offered her flowers, men and youths brought their hands together in 'namaste' or waved at her.
There was an air of festivity as some people were seen dancing to tribal music as they consider her candidature as a major victory for the tribal population since Independence. Huge welcome gates were put up in the town.
Murmu will fly to Delhi from Bhubaneswar. A programme will be held in the capital city to felicitate her when she reaches there this evening, a person accompanying her said.
Tribal people are elated over Murmu's candidature, said BJD MLA R K Das, who meet her at her Rairangpur residence.
Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra said BJP has fielded Murmu in the presidential poll keeping an eye on BJD's 2.85 per cent of votes in the electoral college.
We may not support her in the elections even though she is the befitting candidate, he said.
BJD MP Bhartuhari Mahatab appealed to all MLAs and MPs of Odisha to support Murmu in her journey to Raisina Hills. The ruling BJD has 2.85 per cent votes in the electoral college for the presidential poll while NDA is short of target by 1.2 per cent of votes.