Ms. Pratibha Devising Patil, the 12th President of Republic of India is the first Female President of India. With the swearing in of Ms. Patil as the first citizen of India, the male bastion in the Rashtrapti Bhawan has also been successfully stormed.
Ms. Pratibha Patil, the United Progressive Alliance-Left candidate for the Presidential election was not the first female candidate for the post. Three other female candidates had tried their luck for the post before her. But it was she on whose head the crown of the first female President was to put on, so she was declared elected on July 22, 2007.
Ms. Patil, the first Maharashtrian to hold the post, is a member of the Indian National Congress Party. Throughout her long and successful political career she has held a number of important designations among which include the prestigious posts of Opposition Leader in Maharashtra Assembly, Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and Governor of Rajasthan. Ms. Patil, a trained lawyer and represented Edlabad constituency in Jalgaon district as a Member of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from 1962 to 1985. She was a Member of Parliament from Amaravati Lok Sabha constituency for five years (1991-1996). She was also the first women Governor of Rajasthan from 2440 to 2007.
Actually Pratibha was very lucky right from her birth. Therefore, she was born to such a person in Nadgaon, Maharashtra, who was of progressive thought. Her father Narayan Rao Patil was a prosperous Solanki Rajput who himself was a local politician. So he inspired her daughter to participate in State politics after her post graduation from Mooljee Jaitha College, Jalgaon and she won the Jalgaon Assembly seat in 1962.
Pratibha took her school education from R.R. School and college education from Moolje Jaitha College, Jalgaon. She obtained her law degree from the Government Law College, Mumbai. She excelled during her college days, in table tennis to the extent of winning medals in various inter-college tournaments. In 1962, she was crowned ‘College Queen’ of M.J. College. The same year she won the assembly election she contested in an INC ticket.
She married Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhwat at the age of 31, on July 7th, 1965 after she got a perfect match. Devisingh was a Rajput, whose family had migrated from Rajasthan to Jalgaon. Since she was already popular in Maharashtra politics, she decided not to adopt her husband’s surname. As Devisingh was the ex-Mayor of Amaravati, she got the support of her husband in politics. The couple have a song and a daughter.
Ms. Pratibha Patil began her political career at a relatively tender age of 27 and she won every election she contested since 1962. She was the member of Maharashtra Assembly from 1962 to 1985 and in these 23 tears she got the Ministership of many departments like Urban Development and Housing, Education, Tourism, Parliamentary Affairs, Public Health and Social Welfare, Cultural affairs etc. and promoted from Deputy Minister to Cabinet rank in the Ministry of various Chief Ministers. Mr. Yashvantao Chavan, the erstwhile Chief Minister of Maharashtra and a senior Congress leader was her mentor but she became a deputy minister for Education in the ministry of Vasantrao Naik for the first time in 1967. She was continually re-elected to the Assembly either from Jalgaon or the nearby Edlabad Constituency. In 1985 she was elected to the Rajya Sabha as a Congress candidate. In 1979 she was the Leader of the Opposition during the Chief Ministership of Shrad Pawar. In 1981, she was considered for the Chief Ministership but A.R. Antuley got the post finally. She was appointed MPCC Chief in 1988, a post she held for two years upto 1990 and elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991 after her term expired in April 1990. She had won the Lok Sabha seat from Amaravati constituency. She has also served as Director of National Federation of Urban Co-operative Bank and Credit Societies and the member of Governing Council, National Co-operative Union of India.
Ms Patil together with her husband, has set up an educational institution ‘Vidya Bharti Shikshan Prasarak Mandal’, which runs a chain of schools and colleges in Jalgaon and Mumbai. She has also set up a trust which run hostels for working women in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune and an Engineering College in Jalgaon. She also founded and became the Chairperson of a Co-operative Sugar Factory known as Sant Muktabai Sahakari Sakkar Karkhana besides a co-operative bank named after herself as Pratibha Mahila Sahakari bank. Ms. Patil was also involved in setting up an Industrial Training School for the visually challenged in Jalgaon and running a school for the poor children of Vimukta Jamatis and Nomedic Tribes.
During her political journey she was always loyal to Indira Gandhi and Gandhi-Nehru family, even during the emergency of 1975. That’s why even after her political retirement she was brought back to the politics and made the Governor of Rajastan in 2004 and later in 2007 the President of India. Ms. Patil entered the presidential fray with a distinct edge over her opponent Mr. B.S. Shekhawat. However, the situation was pretty unpredictable till midway, several factors worked in her favor, contributing to her cause in a substantial measure. Besides, there were some latest developments which further paved her way into the office. Abstention by some third front parties and cross voting in her favor in some BJP ruled states also played a significant role in her triumph. She defeated her nearest rival by more than 3 lakh votes.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, from whom she took the charge of President’s office was the most popular President of India. so question arises that whether Pratibha Patil would fulfill the anticipation of people by touching the level of Dr. Kalam? It would be said in answer that seeing her old records as Governor of Rajasthan, when she showed the courage of rejecting to sing the “Rajasthan Religious Freedom Bill 2006”, it seems she will not prove herself as a rubber stamp.