Pratibha Patil life and biography

Pratibha Patil picture, image, poster

Pratibha Patil biography

Date of birth : 1934-12-19
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Nadgaon, Maharashtra, India
Nationality : Hindi
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-22
Credited as : Politician, President of Republic of India, World's political leader

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Pratibha Devisingh Patil, born 19 December 1934 in Nadgaon, Maharashtra, India is the 12th and current President of the Republic of India and first woman to hold the office. She was sworn in as President of India on 25 July 2007, succeeding Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Pratibha Patil, a member of the Indian National Congress (INC), was nominated by the ruling United Progressive Alliance and Indian Left. She won the presidential election held on 19 July 2007 defeating her nearest rival Bhairon Singh Shekhawat .

The election of Pratibha Patil as the first female President of India on July 21, 2007 marked the end of an acrimonious political contest and the beginning of an era in which one of the world's largest nations boasts a woman as head of state. She was elected despite accusations of political corruption and of having "insulted Islam" by stating that Indian women should be freed from the purdah (veil). Despite these controversies, the 72-year-old Patil handily outpolled the opposition candidate, current Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, declaring "I am grateful to the people of India, to all the men and women of India." She added, "This is a victory for the principles which our Indian people uphold."

Patil was born in Nadgaon in the state of Maharashtra on December 19, 1934. She became well educated, receiving her early schooling at the R.R. School in Jalgaon District, her Masters degree from Mooljee Jaitha College, also in Jalgaon; and a law degree from the Government Law College in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). During her college years, Patil distinguished herself not only as a strong student, but as a table-tennis champion. In her mid 20s, she left college and became involved in social work, law, and politics. Mentored by senior Indian National Congress leader Yashwantrao Chavan (a former Maharashtra Chief Minister), she was elected to the Maharashtra Assembly and was appointed deputy minister for education after her reelection five years later, in 1967.

In the midst of this political activity, in 1965 Patil married an educator, Devisingh Ransingh Shekhawat. Because of her growing name recognition within the world of politics, Patil chose not to take her husband's surname. Over time the couple had two children, a son and daughter.

She served in various government posts for the next 30 years, always with the dominant Indian National Congress, never losing an election. When the Congress split in 1977, she chose to remain with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's populist wing of the party rather than side with the splinter Bharatiya Janata Party. (She spent 10 days in jail that year for actively protesting Gandhi's arrest on charges of corruption.) In 1988, Indira's son, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, selected her to serve as president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. She fulfilled her responsibilities in this role, and then went on to serve one final term in India's Parliament, retiring from politics in 1996.

But this state of affairs did not last, for in 2004 Patil was convinced to step out of retirement. She won the governorship of Rajasthan, becoming not only the first female governor of that state, but one of three women in the highest offices within Rajasthan, including Assembly Speaker Sumitra Singh and chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. During her term in office, she refused to sign into law a bill to prohibit the "unlawful conversion from one religion to another by allurement or by fraudulent means or forcibly." Patil protested that the bill, as written, infringed upon "the fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression, freedom of conscience and freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion."She resigned as the Governor of Rajasthan in late June, 2007, to run for India's presidency.

Facing the 2007 presidential election, the ruling federation of Indian political parties, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA, of which the Indian National Congress is a part) nominated Patil as a compromise candidate after the UPA delegates were unable to find a candidate acceptable to all. Her name was proposed by Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv Gandhi; and it is widely supposed that Patil's long-standing loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family played a key role in her being nominated.

Immediately upon being nominated, opposition forces began seeking evidence of wrongdoing within Patil's life and career that might damage her chances for victory. Perhaps the mildest charge was that Patil had never been a particularly distinguished political leader and had sailed through her political career on the strength of being a Gandhi loyalist; they noted that even the governorship of Rajasthan is largely a ceremonial position. As Henry Chu noted in a Los Angeles Times report on Patil's campaign, "She was accused of using a women's empowerment bank she set up in the 1970s to lend cash to her own relatives, who did not pay back the money before financial regulators shut the bank down. A sugar mill she helped found also allegedly defaulted on millions of dollars in loans. Opponents also pointed out that Patil's husband had been caught up in in a scandal surrounding the suicide of a schoolteacher and that her brother was an alleged conspirator in the killing of a local politician in Maharashtra." Patil's opponents issued a booklet titled, Does This Tainted Person Deserve to Become President of India?

Of equal weight in the campaign against Patil were some of her own remarks on various issues. On one occasion she encouraged Indian women to free themselves from the purdah, claiming that the purdah system was introduced to women on the subcontinent many centuries ago "to protect them from the Muslim invaders." Immediately Patil, a Hindu, was denounced by Muslim leaders, who demanded that she apologize and end her candidacy. Patil also raised eyebrows when she claimed to have been told that she was destined for greatness by the spirit of a deceased guru. This revelation moved columnist Tavleen Singh of the The Indian Express to remark, "The future president of India speaks to dead people. This is almost worse than her shady past. . . . What we do not need is a president who sees dead people and makes it sound as if this is routine Hindu practice."

Despite this, and given that the dominance of the Congress Party in Indian politics, Patil was swept into office, garnering 65.82 percent of the votes cast by national lawmakers and state legislators, according to P.D.T. Achary, Secretary General of India's Parliament. As Gavin Rabinowitz noted in The Washington Times, Patil's victory was "hailed as a victory for women in a country where gender discrimination is deep-rooted and widespread." While it remains to be seen just how much headway Patil can gain in her new, largely ceremonial post--in a nation in which the prime minister is the true wielder of power--her election has inspired hope in many. President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, a nation with a long history of political and military conflict with India, congratulated Patil on her election and said, "I sincerely hope that your assumption of the august office will contribute to the enhancement of mutual trust and confidence between our two countries." For her part, Patil announced, after taking the oath of office on July 25, that she favors sustained, socially inclusive economic growth within India, and called for the empowerment of women. As The Times of India noted, "She described herself as the Republic's first servant and said her sincere endeavor would be to live up to the high expectations of the people who chose to elect her as President." Patil replaces the popular A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and will live at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential mansion in New Delhi.

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