Brief History: President, according to Constitution of India, is affirmed as:
- The first citizen of India.
- Executive head of the Parliament (supreme legislative body of India comprises of two houses – lok sabha & Rajya Sabha).
- Head of Judiciary of India.
- Head of Indian Armed Forces.
The most important job of the President is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the Law of India. He does not represent or under influence of any political party.
President in India is directly elected through members of the Parliament as well as members of Vidhan Sabha (State Legislative Assemblies). He is elected for tenure of five years. According to Article 53 of the Constitution of India, President can exercise his powers to dissolve or command the two Houses of Parliament. Even Bills when passed by the Parliament can turn out to be laws only if President gives his consent. The President appoints Prime Minister and other members of the Council of Ministers. He also appoints chief justice and the Chiefs of all branches of the armed forces. President being the Chief of the Defense forces of India can declare war or announce a state of emergency in the state. He can even diminish the salaries of all government Department (including judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts) in case of a financial emergency. President of India lives in the home in New Delhi known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Below is the list of 14 presidents of India since the beginning of the constitution in 1950 and after winning a Presidential election.
1.) Dr. Rajendra Prasad – born on 3 December 1884 was the first President of the Republic of India. He grew in Zeradai, in the Siwan district of Bihar. He was a lawyer by training, a political leader from Indian National Congress Party and major part of Indian independence movement. He was the great follower of Mahatma Gandhi and took part in Salt Satyagraha in 1931 and the Quit India movement in 1942. When India became a Republic in 1950, Prasad was elected as first President by the electoral academy of the first Parliament of India and its state legislatures. As President, Prasad established a tradition of non-partisanship and independence for the office-bearer, and retired from Congress party politics. Prasad was re-elected as the president, becoming the only president to have been in the office twice. His tenure period was of 12 years from 26.01.1950 to 13.05.1962.
2.) Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan – born on 5 September 1888 was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967. He was India’s most illustrious scholars of philosophy. His philosophy was stranded in Advaita Vedanta. He defended Hinduism against ignorant Western criticism, giving Hindu an identity and earned a reputation as a bridge-builder between India and the West. Radhakrishnan was awarded with several high honors during his life, including Bharat Ratna (the highest civilian award in India) in 1954. He was appointed as the vice chancellor of the Andhra University and Banaras Hindu University. He was also made a Knight of the Golden Army of Angels by Pope Paul VI. His birthday is celebrated in India as Teachers’ Day on 5 September as he believed that “teachers should be the best minds in the country.
3.) Dr. Zakir Husain – was the third President of India, from 13 May 1967 until his death in office, during his tenure, on 3 May 1969. He was born on 8 February 1897 in Telangana State. Dr. Husain was the country’s first Muslim president. He previously served as Governor of Bihar from 1957 to 1962 and as Vice President of India from 1962 to 1967. He went to Germany to obtain a PhD from the Frederick William University of Berlin in Economics. Being an educationist and intellectual he at the age of 23 founded a National Muslim University. Dr. Husain was also co-founder of Jamia Milia Islamia, serving as its Vice Chancellor from 1928. Under Husain, Jamia became closely associated with the Indian freedom movement. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest national honour, in 1963.
4.) V.V. Giri – Varahagiri Venkata Giri was the fourth President of the Republic of India from 24 August 1969 to 24 August 1974. Born on 10 August 1894 in Odisha, Giri completed his education at Khallikote Autonomous College in Berhampur and the University College in Dublin. After returning to India he joined the Indian National Congress Party and became active in the trade union movement. He was a founding member of the All India Railway Federation and twice president of the All India Trade Union Congress. Giri is the only person to have served both as an acting president and president of India. He was a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, and has functioned as Indian Minister of Labour and High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.
5.) Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed – born on 13 May 1905 in Delhi was the fifth President of India from 1974 to 1977. He died in 1977 before his term of office ended, and was the second Indian president to die in office. He met Jawaharlal Nehru in England while pursuing his studies at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge in 1925. He joined the Indian National Congress and actively participated in the Indian freedom movement. After Independence he was elected to the Rajya Sabha and thereafter became Advocate-General of the Government of Assam. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Pristina, in Kosovo, in 1975, during his visit to Yugoslavia.
6.) Neelam Sanjiva Reddy – born on 19 May 1913 in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh was the sixth President of India, serving from year 1977 to 1982. Starting a long political career with the Congress party in the Indian independence struggle, he went on to hold several vital offices in free 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 worked with Prime Ministers Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Indira Gandhi. On the occasion of India’s thirtieth anniversary of Independence, Reddy announced that he would be moving out of the Rashtrapati Bhawan to a smaller place in reverence to poor Indian masses and somehow save huge maintenance charges.
7.) Gyani Zail Singh – born 5 May 1916 in Faridkot district in Punjab, was the seventh President of India, serving from the year 1982 to 1987. Earlier to his presidency, he was a politician and the prime leader in Indian National Congress party. He held numerous ministerial posts in the Union Cabinet, including that of Home Minister. It was much said in media that he was without consent designated to serve as the President of India, as being closed to Indira Gandhi and as her loyalist rather than being commendable. His presidency was marked by Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He died of injuries in 1994 after a car accident.
8.) Ramaswamy Venkataraman – born 4 December 1910 in Tamil Nadu was the eighth President of India. He became the 8th President of India and served the nation from year 1987 to 1992. He studied law and practiced in the Madras High Court and after in Supreme Court of India. Later, received the Doctorate of Law from University of Madras and from Nagarjuna University. In his young age, he took active part in Indian Struggle to independence and contributed in the Quit India Movement. He was appointed member of the Constituent Assembly and the provisional cabinet. He was elected to Lok Sabha four times and served as Defence Minister and Union Finance Minister.
9.) Shankar Dayal Sharma –born 19 August 1918 in Bhopal, was the ninth President of India, serving from the year 1992 to 1997. Before his presidency, he was Chief Minister of Bhopal and Cabinet Minister for various portfolios such as Education, Law, Public Works, Industry & Commerce, National Resources and Separate Revenue. He was the President of the Indian National Congress in 1972–1974. The International Bar Association presented him the highest award as “Living Legend of Law” of Recognition for his outstanding contribution to the legal profession internationally and for commitment to the rule of law.
10.) K.R. Narayanan – Kocheril Raman Narayanan was born on 27 October 1920 in Kottayam district in Kerala. He was the tenth President of India. He studied journalism and political science at the London School of Economics. He served as ambassador to Japan, United Kingdom, Thailand, Turkey, China and US before becoming the president. He entered politics at Indira Gandhi’s request 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. Narayanan is watched as an independent and self-confident President who set numerous examples and enlarged the scope of the highest constitutional office.
11.) A. P. J. Abdul Kalam – Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born 15 October 1931 in Tamil Muslim family. He was an Indian scientist and bureaucrat who served as the 11th President of India from the year 2002 to 2007. He came from a poor background and started working at an early age to complement his family’s income. Before becoming President, he worked as an Aerospace engineer with Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). He played a principal role in the development of India’s powerful missile and nuclear weapons. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna. He was lovingly known as the People’s President.
12.) Pratibha Patil – was born on 19 December 1934 in Maharashtra. She was the first woman to hold the office as the 12th President of India. She defeated her rival Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to become the president from the year 2007 to 2012. She retired from the office in July 2012. She saw various controversies like, transforming the death sentences of 35 petitioners to life and spending more money on foreign trips and having taken a greater number of foreign trips, than any prior president. Patil retired from the role in July 2012 and thereafter set up a Vidya Bharati Shikshan Prasarak Mandal – chain of schools, Shram Sadhana Trust – which runs hostels for working women and some engineering college.
13.) Pranab Kumar Mukherjee – born on 11 December 1935 in West Bengal, was the 13th President of India serving from July 2012 to June 2017. In his political career of 60 years, he occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India such as finance minister in 1982–84 and then from 2009 to 2012. He was also the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1985. Mukherjee was a major and senior leader of the Indian National Congress and considered the top-ranking Indian cabinet minister who even presided over cabinet meetings in the absence of the Prime Minister. In education, he was MA in political science and history and also was LL.B from the department of law of the University of Calcutta.
14.) Ram Nath Kovind was born on 1st October 1945 in Paraukh village in the Kanpur Dehat district, Uttar Pradesh. He is currently the fourteen President of the Republic of India. He started his political career as a dalit leader in BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). He was a Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha from year 1994 to 2006. As a dedicated party worker, he donated his ancestral home in Derapur to the RSS. Before becoming President he served as the Governor of Bihar from 2015 to 2017. Kovind won the 2017 Indian presidential election with big majority and joined office on 25 July 2017.