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List of Presidents of India

January 9, 2017

Presidents of India

1947 – The historic year when India gained its independence from years of oppressive British rule, culminating in a united protest that swept the nation into its patriotic fold. In 1947 – with India keeping its “tryst with destiny” – started the demanding but slow nation building process.

The Constituent Assembly was formed and an epic constitution drafted. This constitution was the lengthiest in the world, reflecting the mind-boggling diversity of the country and enshrining the values of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, and dignity.

The Constitution of India was adopted on January 26, 1950, and Rajendra Prasad was elected the first constitutional head of the state, the President of India.

Since 1950 (till January 2017) India has had 13 full-time Presidents. There were three periods when the nation was headed by an acting President. The 13th President of India, Pranab Mukherjee is set to complete his presidential term in July 2017 and a new president is to be elected by the Electoral College.

Mr. Mukherjee is also eligible for re-election and the choice ultimately lies with the Electoral College.

The following is the list of India’s illustrious heads of state in chronological order:

No. Name Tenure
1 Rajendra Prasad 1950 to 1962
2 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan 1962 to 1967
3 Zakir Hussain 1967 to 1969
4 VV Giri (Acting President) 1969 to 1969
5 Mohammad Hidayatullah (Acting President) 1969 to 1969
6 V.V Giri 1969 to 1974
7 Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed 1974 to 1977
8 Basappa Danappa Jatti (Acting President) 1977 to 1977
9 Neelam Sanjiva Reddy 1977 to 1982
10 Giani Zail Singh 1982 to 1987
11 R Venkataraman 1987 to 1992
12 Shankar Dayal Sharma 1992 to 1997
13 K R Narayanan 1997 to 2002
14 APJ Abdul Kalam 2002 to 2007
15 Pratibha Patil 2007 to 2012
16 Pranab Mukherjee 2012 to present

The President of India is the head of the state and also the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces. All executive decisions made by the Prime Minister and the government are taken in the name of the President.

While many of our presidents have been illustrious achievers with an independent outlook, a number of them have also risen from the political echelons of the country. As the President, however, they have risen above their political inclinations and chosen to function in the best interests of the nation.

Here are the details of India’s presidents and their terms –

Rajendra Prasad

Term – 26 January 1950 to 12 May 1962

An inspirational freedom fighter and a leading figure of the Quit India Movement, Rajendra Prasad was elected by the Constituent Assembly to be the first President of India. Subsequently, he was also elected by the Electoral College in 1951. In 1957, Prasad was re-elected as the head of state of India. He, thus, became the only Indian President to have served two terms. President Prasad set the standard high for the future occupants of the office.

Political Affiliation – Indian National Congress

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Term – 14 May 1962 to 13 May 1967

Accomplished academic and scholar, erudite philosopher and teacher, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was elected the second President of India. Radhakrishnan had been knighted in 1931 and had received the Bharat Ratna in 1954. His election to the office brought a great emphasis to the education system and academic development of the country. Before his election to the President’s office, Radhakrishnan had remained free of any political involvement and this was a trend setter.

Political Affiliation – Independent

Zakir Husain

Term – 13 May 1967 to 3 May 1969

Another eminent scholar and educationist, Zakir Husain stepped into the footsteps of S. Radhakrishnan and was elected as the third President of India. He was the vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University and the co-founder of the Jamia Millia Islamia University of Delhi. Husain was also the recipient of the Bharat Ratna in 1963. He was the first Muslim President of the country and also the first president to die in office.

Political Affiliation – Independent

V V Giri (Acting President)

In Office – 3 May 1969 to 20 July 1969

The demise of Zakir Husain in office made it necessary to elevate Vice President Varahagiri Venkata Giri to the position of the (acting) President of India. He served in this capacity for over a couple of months and then resigned in order to be considered a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.

Muhammad Hidayatullah (Acting President)

In Office – 20 July 1969 to 24 August 1969

Mohammad Hidayatullah was a well-known name. An eminent jurist and scholar, he had served as the Chief Justice of India between 1968 and 1980 and had gained a blemish-free reputation. With VV Giri’s resignation as the acting president, Mohammad Hidayatullah took over as the next acting president of India until the elections were conducted.

V V Giri

Term – 24 August 1969 to 24 August 1974

Giri had served as India’s first High Commissioner to Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) between 1947 and 1951. He had also been the Governor of Uttar Pradesh (1956 to 1960), Governor of Kerala (1960 to 1965) and the Governor of Karnataka (1967 to 1969) before serving as the Vice President and then the President.

Political Affiliation – Independent

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed

Term – 24 August 1974 to 11 February 1977

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed had served as a minister before being elected as the President of India. His term was possibly the most controversial since this was when a state of emergency had been declared across the country. Elections and other civil freedoms including the freedom of the press were curbed at this time and the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi assumed unchecked authority.

Political Affiliation – Indian National Congress

Basappa Danappa Jatti (Acting President)

In Office – 11 February 1977 to 25 July 1977

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was the second president to die in office and the Vice President Basappa Danappa Jatti was sworn in as the Acting President. He had earlier been the Chief Minister of Mysore state.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy

Term – 25 July 1977 to 25 July 1982

N S Reddy was another famous freedom fighter and inspiring revolutionist from southern India. Initially a member of the Indian National Congress, he served as a Union Minister under Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi. He was the first CM of Andhra Pradesh state and also had served as the Speaker of Lok Sabha. In 1975, he joined the Janata Party and by 1977 was elected President of India.

Political Affiliation – Janata Party

Giani Zail Singh

Term – 25 July 1982 to 25 July 1987

A leading politician with the Indian National Congress, Zail Singh had served as the Home Minister and had held several ministerial positions before being elected as the President. His term in office was also one of the most politically controversial periods marked by Operation Blue Star. PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated and the anti- Sikh riots of 1984 that followed also marked this period.

Political Affiliation – Indian National Congress

Ramaswamy Venkataraman

Term – 25 July 1987 to 25 July 1992

R Venkataraman was a freedom fighter who later joined the Congress party and was elected four times as a member of the Lok Sabha. After serving as the Finance Minister and Defence Minister, he had been elected as the Vice president. Later R Venkataraman was elected as the President of India.

Political Affiliation – Indian National Congress

Shankar Dayal Sharma

Term – 25 July 1992 to 25 July 1997

Shankar Dayal Sharma was another eminent politician (Indian National Congress) who had served as the Chief Minister of Bhopal (between 1952 and 1956), as a Cabinet Minister (between 1956– and 1967 and again between 1972 and 1974). He held several key portfolios. In 1992, he was elected President of India. His commitment to the ‘rule of law’ was widely appreciated.

Political Affiliation – Indian National Congress

Kocheril Raman Narayanan

Term – 25 July 1997 to 25 July 2002

Kocheril Raman Narayanan was an accomplished scholar and an eminent statesman. An IFS (Indian Foreign Service) officer, he had been India’s ambassador to several countries including the USA, Japan, UK, China, and Turkey. He was often referred to as “the best diplomat of the country”. Later as a Lok Sabha member he served as a cabinet Minister.

In 1997. K R Narayanan became the first Dalit President of the country. He remained very involved in the government and often called himself a “working President”. He was a trendsetter and set benchmarks and protocols in office.

Political Affiliation – Independent

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Term – 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007

APJ Abdul Kalam was probably the best known among the Presidents of India. An eminent scientist, he is known as the architect of India’s nuclear missile programme. He was also closely involved with the country’s civilian space programme, contributing greatly to many breakthroughs.

He received the Bharat Ratna and inspired the younger generation to foster education and values. Bharat Ratna Abdul Kalam is called the ‘People’s President’, and with good reason.

Political Affiliation – Independent

Pratibha Patil

Term – 25 July 2007 to 25 July 2012

Pratibha Patil was the first and is the only (as of January 2017) woman to have held the President of India’s office. Between 2004 and 2007, she had served as the Governor of Rajasthan state.

Political Affiliation – Indian National Congress

Pranab Mukherjee

Incumbent President (From 25 July 2012)

The incumbent President of India Pranab Mukherjee is a senior politician who holds the respect of across the nation. He had served in various key positions including that of the Leader of the Rajya Sabha (between 1980 and 1985) and as the Defence Minister (between 2004 and 2006), Minister of External Affairs (between 2009 and 2012) and as the Finance Minister of India (between 2009 and 2012).

Despite the accession of the BJP at the centre, he has maintained the dignity of the office and remained an unbiased head of state.

Political Affiliation – Indian National Congress

2017 Indian Presidential Election

The president of India is elected not by direct elections but by an electoral college. This Electoral College consists of the members of both houses of parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), the members of the Legislative Assemblies of all the 29 states and the Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry.

This year the Presidential election is scheduled to be held before the end of President Pranab Mukherjee’s term (25 July 2017). The incumbent president may be re-elected or may be succeeded by a new president elected by the Electoral College. Media reports suggest that Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sumitra Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj, and N R Narayana Murthy as likely candidates in the running.

 

Know More:

How is the president of India elected?

List of Indian Prime Minister

 


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An Indian. Born a princess, now a storyteller. A conversationalist. An empath. A woman with strong opinions.

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