Rajendra Prasad

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Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Food Minister Rajendra Prasad during a radio broadcast in Dec 1947 cropped.jpg
1st President of India
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Vice President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Preceded by Position Established
Succeeded by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Personal details
Born (1884-12-03)3 December 1884
Ziradei, Siwan, Bihar, Bengal Presidency, British India
(now in Bihar, India)
Died 28 February 1963(1963-02-28) (aged 78) Patna, Bihar, India
Nationality Indian
Political party Indian National Congress
Spouse(s) Rajvanshi Devi (d.1962)
Alma mater University of Calcutta
Religion Hinduism

Rajendra Prasad (About this sound listen ; 3 December 1884 – 28 February 1963) was the first President of the Republic of India.[1] An Indian political leader, lawyer by training, Prasad joined the Indian National Congress during the Indian independence movement and became a major leader from the region of Bihar. A supporter of Mahatma Gandhi, Prasad was imprisoned by British authorities during the Salt Satyagraha of 1931 and the Quit India movement of 1942. Prasad served one term as President of the Indian National Congress from 1934 to 1935. After the 1946 elections, Prasad served as minister of food and agriculture in the central government. Upon independence in 1947, Prasad was elected president of the Constituent Assembly of India, which prepared the Constitution of India and served as its provisional parliament.

When India became a Republic in 1950, Prasad was elected its first President by the Constituent Assembly. Following the general election of 1951, he was elected President by the electoral college 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. Although a ceremonial head of state, Prasad encouraged the development of education in India and advised the Nehru government on several occasions. In 1957, Prasad was re-elected to the presidency, becoming the only president to have been twice the office.[2]

Early life[edit]

Rajendra Prasad[3] was a Kayastha and born in Zeradei, in the Siwan district of Bihar near Chappra. His father Mahadev Sahai, was a scholar of both the Persian and Sanskrit languages, while his mother, Kamleshwari Devi, was a religious woman who would tell stories from the Ramayana to her son.

Student life[edit]

When Prasad was 5 years old, his parents placed him under the tutelage of a Moulavi, an accomplished Muslim scholar, to learn the Persian language, Hindi and arithmetic. After the completion of traditional elementary education, he was sent to the Chapra District School and at a small age of 12, he was married to Rajavanshi Devi. He, along with his elder brother Mahendra Prasad, then went to study at T.K. Ghosh's Academy in Patna for a period of two years.He secured first in the entrance examination to the University of Calcutta and was awarded Rs. 30 per month as a scholarship. He joined the Presidency College, Calcutta in 1902, initially as a science student. He passed Intermediate level classes then called as F. A. under the University of Calcutta in March 1904. He was a great scholar. It can be proved from the comment of an examiner who wrote on his answer sheet "examinee is better than examiner". Later he decided to focus on the arts and did his M.A. in Economics with first division from the University of Calcutta in December 1907. There he lived with his brother in the Eden Hindu Hostel. A devoted student as well as a public activist, he was an active member of The Dawn Society.[4] It was due to his sense of duty towards his family and education that he refused to join Servants of India Society. Rajendra Prasad was instrumental[5] in the formation of the Bihari Students Conference in 1906 in the hall of the Patna College.It was the first organization of its kind in India and produced some of the eminent leader of Bihar like Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha Shri Krishna Singh and Shri deep naryan Singh. .

Career[edit]

=As a teacher[edit]

(Sitting L to R)Rajendra Prasad and Anugrah Narayan Sinha during Mahatma Gandhi's 1917 Champaran Satyagraha

Rajendra Prasad served in various educational institutions as a teacher. After completing his M.A in economics, he became a professor of English at the Langat Singh College of Muzaffarpur in (Bihar) and went on to become the principal. However later on he left the college for his legal studies. In 1909, while pursuing his law studies in Kolkata he also worked as Professor of Economics at Calcutta City College. In 1915, Prasad appeared in the examination of Masters in Law, passed the examination and won a gold medal. He completed his Doctorate in Law from Allahabad University in 1937.[6]

As a lawyer[edit]

In the year 1916, he joined the High Court of Bihar and Odisha. Later in the year 1917, he was appointed as one of the first members of the Senate and Syndicate of the Patna University. He also used to practice law at Bhagalpur, the famous silk-town of Bihar.[citation needed]

Role in the Independence Movement[edit]

Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai, and Rajendra Prasad (Center) at the AICC Session, April 1939

Prasad had formally joined the Indian National Congress way back in the year 1911. During the Lucknow Session of Indian National Congress held in 1916, he met Mahatma Gandhi. During one of the fact-finding missions at Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi asked him to come with his volunteers. He was so greatly moved by the dedication, courage, and conviction of Mahatma Gandhi that as soon as the motion of Non-Cooperation was passed by Indian National Congress in 1920, he retired his lucrative career of lawyer as well as his duties in the university to aid the movement.

He also responded to the call by Gandhi to boycott Western educational establishments by asking his son, Mrityunjaya Prasad, to drop out of his studies and enroll himself in Bihar Vidyapeeth, an institution he along with his colleagues founded on the traditional Indian model.[7]

During the course of the independent movement, he interacted with Dr Rahul Sankrityayan, a writer, and polymath. Rahul Sankrityayan was greatly influenced by Prasad's intellectual prowess, finding him to be a guide and guru. In many of his articles he mentioned about his meeting with Sankrityayan and narrated about their meetings. He wrote articles for the revolutionary publications Searchlight and the Desh and collected funds for these papers. He toured widely, explaining, lecturing, and exhorting the principles of the independence movement.[citation needed]

He took an active role in helping the affected people during the 1914 floods that struck Bihar and Bengal. When an earthquake affected Bihar on 15 January 1934, Prasad was in jail. During that period, he passed on the relief work to his close colleague Anugrah Narayan Sinha.[8] He was released two days later and set up Bihar Central Relief Committee on 17 January 1934, and took the task of raising funds to help the people himself. During 31 May 1935 Quetta earthquake, when he was forbidden to leave the country due to government's order he set up Quetta Central Relief Committee in Sindh and Punjab under his own presidency.

He was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress during the Bombay session in October 1934. He again became the president when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose resigned in 1939. On 8 August 1942, Congress passed the Quit India Resolution in Bombay which led to the arrest of many Indian leaders. He was arrested from Sadaqat Ashram, Patna and sent to Bankipur Central Jail. After remaining incarcerated for nearly three years, he was released on 15 June 1945.[citation needed]

After the formation of Interim Government of 12 nominated ministers under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru on 2 September 1946, he got the Food and Agriculture department. Later, he was elected the President of Constituent Assembly on 11 December 1946. Again on 17 November 1947 he became Congress President for a third time after Jivatram Kripalani submitted resignation. Two and a half years after independence, on 26 January 1950, the Constitution of independent India was ratified and Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected the nation's first President.He served as the President of constituent assembly.

Between 1958 and 1960, President Prasad led 5 state visits to Japan, Ceylon, USSR, Indo-China, Malaya and Indonesia.[9]

Prasad acted independently of politics, following the expected role of the president as per the constitution. Following the tussle over the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill, he took a more active role in state affairs. In 1962, after serving twelve years as the president, he announced his decision to retire. After relinquishing the office of the President of India on May 1962, he returned to Patna on 14 May 1962 and preferred to stay in the campus of Bihar Vidyapeeth.[10] He was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian award.

He died on 28 February 1963. Rajendra Smriti Sangrahalaya in Patna is dedicated to him.[11]

Literary contributions[edit]

  • Satyagraha at Champaran (1922)
  • India Divided (1946, online)
  • Atmakatha (1946), his autobiography written during his 3-year prison term in Bankipur Jail
  • Mahatma Gandhi and Bihar, Some Reminisences" (1949)
  • Bapu ke Kadmon Mein (1954)
  • Since Independence (published in 1960)
  • bharitya shiksha

References[edit]

  1. ^ The President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee. Presidentofindia.nic.in. Retrieved on 12 December 2013.
  2. ^ President's Secretariat National Informatics Centre
  3. ^ Janak Raj Jai (1 January 2003). Presidents of India, 1950–2003. Regency Publications. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-81-87498-65-0. 
  4. ^ राजेंद्र प्रसाद (2007). राजेंद्र बाबू: पत्रों के आईने में. प्रभात प्रकाशन. ISBN 978-81-7315-654-0. 
  5. ^ Rajendra Prasad:First President of India, "INDIA TODAY". Indiatoday.intoday.in (5 July 2012). Retrieved on 12 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Major Life Events of Dr. Rajendra Prasad – First President of India". Rss.bih.nic.in. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Atul Sethi, "Distant dads?" ''The Times of India'' (Aug 12 2007). Timesofindia.indiatimes.com (12 August 2007). Retrieved on 12 December 2013.
  8. ^ Kamat. "Great freedom Fighters". Kamat's archive. Retrieved 25 February 2006. 
  9. ^ "DETAILS OF MEDIA PERSONS ACCOMPANYING THE PRESIDENT IN HIS/HER VISITS ABROAD SINCE 1947 TO 2012". The President's Secretariat. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  10. ^ About Rajendra Smriti Sanghralaya, Sadakat Ashram, Patna, Bihar, India. Rss.bih.nic.in. Retrieved on 12 December 2013.
  11. ^ Dr Rajendra Prasad at the Wayback Machine (archived March 25, 2008). Indian Politicians Biography

Further reading[edit]

  • Rajendra Prasad, first President of India, by Kewalram Lalchand Panjabi. Published by Macmillan, 1960.
  • Rajendra Prasad: twelve years of triumph and despair, by Rajendra Lal Handa. Published by Sterling Publishers,1979.
  • Dr Rajendra Prasad, Correspondence and Select Documents, by Rajendra Prasad, Valmiki Choudhary. Published by Allied Publishers, 1984. ISBN 81-7023-002-0. Excerpts (Vol. 1-Vol. 10)
  • Dr Rajendra Prasad by India Parliament. Lok Sabha. Published by Lok Sabha Secretariat, 1990.
  • Rajendra Prasad and the Indian freedom struggle, 1917–1947, by Nirmal Kumar. Published by Patriot Publishers, 1991. ISBN 81-7050-128-8.
  • Dr Rajendra Prasad: Political Thinkers Of Modern India, by V. Grover. Published by Deep & Deep Publications, 1993.
  • First Citizens of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad to Dr Shanker Dayal Sharma: Profile and Bibliography, by A. B. Kohli. Published by Reliance Pub. House, 1995. ISBN 81-85972-71-0.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari
as Governor General of India
President of India
1950–1962
Succeeded by
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan