Being the first President of Independent India was not easy but Dr Rajendra Prasad; fulfilled this responsibility with honour and dignity. His presidency was the only person to be the two-term President of India in the list of presidents of India.
Born December 3, 1884, in Zeradai, Bihar, to Mahadev Sahai and Kamleshwari Devi. Rajendra Prasad grew up during the peak of the British rule in India. He was married to Rajavanshi Devi at the age of 12 in the year 1896; they both had a son named Mrityunjaya.
Education and early life
Always eager to learn, Prasad's quest for education took him to the University of Calcutta. Where he secured first place in the entrance exam and was subsequently awarded a scholarship of Rs 30 per month. So impressed were his professors with his intellect; that one allegedly even wrote on his exam paper, "Examinee is better than the examiner".
Throughout his college life, he was involved in social activism and was an active member of The Dawn Society. He along with his friends formed a Bihari Students Conference. Which gave birth to the Bihari leaders of the freedom movement which includes Anugrah Narayan Sinha and Krishna Singh. He was also offered a position in the Servants of India Society; which he regretfully turned down, due to his family commitments.
After studying economics and spending a brief period as a professor of English; he pursued law at Ripon College (now called Surendranath Law College). While simultaneously teaching classes for Economics at Calcutta City College as well. He was graduated in the year 1937 with a gold medal and as he completed his PhD in law; he was officially Dr Rajendra Prasad.
Though he practised law in the High Court of Bihar and Odisha from 1915 to 1920. And was simultaneously appointed as part of the Senate and Syndicate of Patna University. Dr Rajendra Prasad's life took a turn when he met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916.
Role in Indian Independence Movement
He was part of the group which founded the Bihar Vidyapeeth, an open rejection of the British education system, at Mahatma Gandhi's request to boycott Western institutions; even enrolling his son as one of the students. Prasad also began to write articles, for notable revolutionary papers; such as Searchlight and Desh, while also collecting funding for the same. He also travelled around the country to explain and convince people to join the freedom struggle.
Not only was he revolutionary, but compassionate as well. During the earthquake which rocked Bihar on January 15, 1934. Prasad was locked in prison because of his involvement in the Satyagraha movement. Well, he was released after two days of the disaster; and he immediately went to work to set up relief funds for the people affected. A year later, when the Quetta earthquake struck, he again set up relief operations in Sindh and Punjab.
The former Member of the Legislative Assembly was very rebellious and it didn't go unnoticed by the British government. When the government passed the quit India resolution, it led to the arrest for many Indian leaders and Prasad was among those people.
Upon his release, he joined Jawaharlal Nehru's interim cabinet of ministers, chosen to head Food and Agriculture. He was elected President of the Constituent Assembly in 1946, overseeing the drafting and creation of the Indian Constitution, a key player since its inception.
Life after Becoming the President
When the constitution of India formed in January 1950, Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected as the first President of India from the Indian national congress political party. One of the elected members in Lok Sabha, Prasad won with a massive margin and his difference with Prime Minister Nehru continued on Hindu Code Bill which was believed to preserve Indian culture during development.
Mentioned in First Citizens of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad to Dr Shanker Dayal Sharma book, he was defined by the principles he practised. He accepted only half of his salary of Rs 10,000, and towards the end of his tenure, only accepted Rs 2,500! He loathed gifts, preferring the blessings and goodwill of his peers instead. In many ways, living in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, he was the people's president, and his supporters were enamoured by his humility and the simplicity with which he conducted himself. For his service to the nation, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour in 1962.
Dr Rajendra Prasad was the first and only President of India who served for 12 years. Death of his wife was a tragic event in his life which affected him the most and due to this, he spent his final days in the Sadaqat Ashram of Patna. He took his last breath on 28th February 1963.
While Indians recognise Dr Rajendra Prasad as a President, even before he showed his prowess in office, his struggles and dreams for an independent nation make him more than anything an Indian patriot and a memorable person who has a great contribution in making India a free country and in development of India as well. Recently, we have seen Pranab Mukherjee, who won 70% of electoral college votes and Ram Nath Kovind, acting president in action.