Rajendra Prasad was the first President of India, re-elected for two consecutive terms in 1952 and 1957, and remains only President of India to achieve this feat. He was an eminent Lawyer, Teacher, Humanitarian, and one of the greatest political leaders of all times who actively participated in the Indian National Movement.
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.
After the 1946 elections, Prasad served as Minister of Food and Agriculture in the central government.
Upon independence in 1947, Prasad was elected as 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 serve two full terms.
Born on December 3, 1884, Prasad was placed under the tutelage of a Maulavi, an accomplished Muslim scholar, to learn the Persian language, Hindi and arithmetic.
In June 1896, at an early age of 12, he was married to Rajavanshi Devi.
He secured first in the entrance examination to the University of Calcutta and was awarded Rs. 30 per month as a scholarship.
Prasad joined the Presidency College, Calcutta in 1902, initially as a science student. He passed the F. A. under the University of Calcutta in March 1904 and then graduated with a first division from there in March 1905.
Impressed by his intellect, an examiner once commented on his answer sheet that the “examinee is better than examiner”.
Later he decided to focus on the study of arts and did his M.A. in Economics with a first division from the University of Calcutta in December 1907.
Prasad was instrumental 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 important leaders from Bihar like Anugrah Narayan Sinha and Krishna Singh who played a prominent role in the Champaran Movement and Non-cooperation Movement. The organization provided political leadership to bihar in the upcoming years.
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.
Later he left the college to undertake legal studies and entered the Ripon College, Calcutta (now the Surendranath Law College).
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.
In 1916, he joined the High Court of Bihar and Odisha. In 1917, he was appointed as one of the first members of the Senate and Syndicate of the Patna University.
He also practiced law at Bhagalpur, the famous silk town in Bihar.
Formally, he joined the Indian National Congress in the year 1911
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 from 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 enrol himself in Bihar Vidyapeeth, an institution he along with his colleagues founded on the traditional Indian model
The Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan were open to public for about a month for the first time during his tenure as President, and since then it has been a big attraction for people in Delhi and other parts of the country
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