The President of India is the Head of the State and first citizen of the country. He is the Supreme Commander (Commander-in-Chief) of the Indian armed forces. He is elected by the member of a electoral college that comprises all elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of the State and Union Territories of India. The President holds office for a term of five years.
The primary duty of the Indian President is to preserve, protect and defend the constitution, and law of India.He is the common head of all independent constitutional entities. The oath of the President is administered by the Chief Justice of India, and in his/her absence, by the most senior judge of the Supreme Court. The president is termed as ‘Rashtrapati’ in Hindi (primary official language of India). He resides in an estate in New Delhi known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The designation of ‘President’ was introduced in 1950 and since then a total of 13 Presidents have been appointed. It was established after India was declared republic with the implementation of the Constitution. Apart from the thirteen Presidents, there have been three Acting Presidents who served the post for a short period. So, let’s see the thirteen Presidents of India chronologically and also the Acting Presidents of India.
Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India:
Term of Office: January 26, 1950 – May 13, 1962
Dr Rajendra Prasad was the first President of the Republic of India. He was born on December 3, 1884 and died on February 28, 1963. Lawyer by training and Indian political leader, Dr Prasad joined the Indian National Congress during the Indian independence movement and became a major leader from Bihar region. He served one term as President of the Indian National Congress from 1934 to 1935.
After the elections in 1946, Dr Prasad served as the Food and Agriculture Minister in the Central Government. Dr Prasad encouraged the development of education in India. He is the only President in India to have been elected twice for the post. He drafted the first Constitution of republic India.
Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, second President of India:
Terms of Office: May 13, 1962 – May 13, 1967
Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888 and died on April 17, 1975. He was an Indian philosopher and statesman who was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962). One of India’s most distinguished twentieth-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, Dr Radhakrishnan’s philosophy was grounded in Advaita Vedanta, reinterpreting this tradition for a contemporary understanding.
Dr Radhakrishnan was awarded several high awards during his life, including a knighthood in 1931, the Bharat Ratna (highest civilian award in India) in 1954, and honorary membership of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, chose to turn his birthday into a remarkable day where teachers would be celebrated for their hard work and dedication to education and teaching. Therefore, September 5 is celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India since 1962.
Dr Zakir Hussain, third President of India:
Terms of Office: May 13, 1967 – May 3, 1969
Dr Zakir Hussain was born on February 8, 1897 and died on May 3, 1969. Dr Hussain was an educator and intellectual, and was the country’s first Muslim President. He died during his term in office due to which he was the shortest serving President of India.
Previously, Dr Hussain served as the Governor of Bihar from 1957 – 1962 and as Vice President of India from 1962 – 1967. He was also Co-founder of Jamia Millia Islamia (a Central University in Delhi), serving as its Vice Chancellor from 1928. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest national honour, in 1963.
Dr Hussain was instrumental in bringing out the anthology of arguably the greatest Urdu poet Mirza Assadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’. He was one of the most prominent educational thinkers and practitioners of modern India.
A college was started after the Dr Hussain in Ilayangudi, in 1970 with the main objective of providing facility for higher education. The Engineering College of Aligarh Muslim University is named after Dr Zakir Hussain.
Shri VV Giri, fourth President of India:
Terms of Office: August 24, 1969 – August 24, 1974
Born on August 10, 1894, Shri Varahagiri Venkata Giri commonly known as VV Giri. Shri Giri was a founding member of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation and twice president of the All India Trade Union Congress. Elected to the Imperial Legislative Assembly in 1934, he became a member of the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1937 and served as Minister for Labour until 1937.
Having served as Governor of the states of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore between 1957 and 1967, he was elected Vice President of India in 1967. Following the death of President Zakir Hussain, Giri also served as Acting President of India from 3 May 1969 to 20 July 1969. After the end of his term, Shri Giri was honoured with the Bharat Ratna. Shri VV Giri died on June 23, 1980.
Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, fifth President of India:
Terms of Office: August 24, 1974 – February 11, 1977
Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was born on May 13, 1905 and died on February 11, 1977. After returning to India after graduating from University of Cambridge in History, Shri Ahmed was elected to the Assam legislature in 1935.
As Assam’s Minister of Finance and Revenue in 1938, he was responsible for some radical taxation measures. In 1946 he was appointed Advocate General of Assam and held the post for six years. After a term in the national Parliament, he returned to Assam politics until Prime Minister Indira Gandhi included him in her first cabinet in January 1966.
He held a variety of portfolios such as Irrigation and Power, Education, Industrial Development, and Agriculture.
Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, sixth President of India:
Terms of Office: July 25, 1977 – July 25, 1982
Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy held several key offices in independent India—as the first Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, a two-time Speaker of the Lok Sabha and a Union Minister—before becoming the youngest-ever Indian President.
He was born on May 19, 1913 and died on June 1, 1996. Shri Reddy was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1946 as a Congress Party representative. He became Deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1953 and the first Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
He was a Union Cabinet Minister under Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi from 1964 to 1967 and Lok Sabha Speaker from 1967 to 1969. He later retired from active politics but returned in 1975 and was unanimously elected Speaker of the sixth Lok Sabha.
Shri Giani Zail Singh, seventh of the thirteen Presidents of India:
Terms of Office: July 25, 1982 – July 25, 1987
Shri Gyani Zail Singh was born on May 5, 1916 and died on December 25, 1994. Prior to his Presidency, Shri Singh was a politician with the Indian National Congress party, and had held several ministerial posts in the Union Cabinet, including that of Home Minister.
Shri R Venkataraman, eighth of the thirteen Presidents of India:
Terms of Office: July 25, 1987 – July 25 1992
Shri Ramaswamy Venkataraman was born on December 4, 1910 and died on January 27, 2009. Shri Venkataraman was an Indian lawyer, Indian independence activist and politician who served as a Union Minister. He studied law and practised in Madras High Court and the Supreme Court of India.
He was appointed member of the Constituent Assembly and the provisional Pabinet. He was elected to Lok Sabha four times and served as Union Finance Minister and Defence Minister. In 1984, he was elected the seventh Vice-President of India.
Shri SD Sharma, ninth of the thirteen Presidents of India:
Terms of Office: July 25, 1992 – July 25, 1997
Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma was the eighth Vice President of India prior to his Presidency, serving under R. Venkataraman. He was also Chief Minister (1952–1956) of Bhopal, and Cabinet Minister (1956–1967), holding the portfolios of Education, Law, Public Works, Industry and Commerce, National Resources, and Separate Revenue.
Shri Sharma was born on August 19, 1918 and died on December 26, 1999. The International Bar Association presented Shri Sharma with the ‘Living Legends of Law Award of Recognition’ for his outstanding contribution to the legal profession internationally and for commitment to the rule of law.
Shri KR Narayanan, tenth of the thirteen Presidents of India:
Terms of Office: July 25, 1997 – July 25, 2002
Shri KR Narayanan began his career in India as a member of the Indian Foreign Service in the Nehru administration. He served as ambassador to Japan, United Kingdom, Thailand, Turkey, People’s Republic of China and United States of America and was referred to by Nehru as ‘the best diplomat of the country’. He was born on October 27, 1920 and died on November 9, 2005.
He entered politics and won three successive General Elections to the Lok Sabha and served as a Minister of State in the Union Cabinet under former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Elected as the ninth Vice President in 1992, Narayanan went on to become President in 1997. He was the first and, till date the only member of the Dalit community, to hold the post.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, eleventh of the thirteen Presidents of India:
Terms of Office: July 25, 2002 – July 25, 2007
Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. A career Scientist turned politician, Dr Kalam was born on October 15, 1931 and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. He studied physics and aerospace engineering. He spent four decades as a Scientist and Science Administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and was intimately involved in India’s Civilian Space Program and Military Missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the ‘Missile Man of India’ for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.
He also played a pivotal organisational, technical, and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974. Widely referred to as the ‘People’s President’, he was a recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna (India’s highest civilian honour).
While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Dr Kalam collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest on July 27, 2015. He was buried with full state honours in Rameswaram.
Pratibha Patil, twelfth of the thirteen Presidents of India:
Terms of Office: July 25, 2007 – July 25, 2012
Born on December 19, 1934, Pratibha Devisingh Patil is the only woman to hold the post of a President till date. She previously served as the Governor of Rajasthan from 2004 to 2007. In 1962, at the age of 27, she was elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for the Jalgaon Constituency. Thereafter she won in the Muktainagar (formerly Edlabad) Constituency on four consecutive occasions between 1967 and 1985, before becoming a Member of Parliament of the Rajya Sabha between 1985 and 1990.
In the 1991 elections for the 10th Lok Sabha, she was elected as a Member of Parliament representing the Amravati Constituency. In addition, she had been for some years the president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and also held office as Director of the National Federation of Urban Co-operative Banks and Credit Societies and as a Member of the Governing Council of the National Co-operative Union of India.
Shri Pranab Mukherjee, current and the thirteenth President of India:
Assumed office on July 25, 2012
Shri Pranab Kumar Mukherjee is the thirteenth and current President of India. In a political career spanning six decades, Mukherjee was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India. Prior to his election as President, Shri Mukherjee was Union Finance Minister from 2009 to 2012. He was appointed the Planning Commission Head in 1991 and Foreign Minister in 1995. He held a number of key Cabinet portfolios: Defence (2004–06), External Affairs (2006–09) and Finance (2009–12).
Acting Presidents of India:
An Acting President of a country is a person who temporarily fills the role of a country’s President, either when the substantive President is unavailable (example: ill or on vacation) or when the post is vacant (due to death, injury, resignation, or dismissal). Let’s see who were the Acting Presidents of India:
Shri VV Giri:
Shri VV Giri also served as Acting President of India from May 3,1969 to July 20, 1969 following the death of then President, Dr Zakir Hussain. He resigned in July to participate in the Presidential Elections and became the fourth President of India.
Shri Mohammad Hidayatullah:
Shri Mohammad Hidayatullah was the eleventh Chief Justice of India serving from February 25, 1968 to December 16, 1970, and the sixth Vice-President of India, serving from August 31, 1979 to August 30, 1984.
He had also served as the Acting President of India from July 20, 1969 to August 24, 1969 and from October 6, 1982 to October 31 1982. He is regarded as an eminent Jurist, Scholar, Educationist, Author and Linguist.
Shri Basappa Danappa Jatti:
Basappa Danappa Jatti was born on September 10, 1913 and died on June 7, 2002 was the fifth Vice-President of India, serving from 1974 to 1979. He was the Acting President of India from February 11, 1977 to July 25, 1977.
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