Presidents of India

The President of India is the head of state and first citizen of India. The President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. Although the president is vested such powers by the Constitution of India, the position is largely a ceremonial role and the executive powers are de facto exercised by the Cabinet Ministers and Prime Minister. The post of President is known in Hindi as Rashtrapati, a Sanskrit neologism meaning “lord of the realm”. The President is elected by the Electoral College composed of elected members of the parliament houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and also members of the Vidhan Sabha, the state legislative assemblies.

There have been 13 presidents of India since the introduction of the post in 1950. The post was established when India was declared as a republic with the adoption of the Indian constitution. Apart from these thirteen, three acting presidents have also been in office for short periods of time. Varahagiri Venkata Giri became Acting President of India in 1969 following the death of Zakir Hussain, who died in office. Giri was elected President a few months later. He remains the only person to have held office both as a president and acting president. The President may remain in office for a tenure of five years, as stated by article 56, part V, of the constitution of India. In the case where a president’s term of office is terminated early or during the absence of the president, the vice president assumes office. By article 70 of part V, the parliament may decide how to discharge the functions of the president where this is not possible, or in any other unexpected contingency.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, is the only person to have held office for two terms. Seven presidents have been members of a political party before being elected. Six of these were active party members of the Indian National Congress. The Janata Party has had one member, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, who later became president. Two presidents, Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, have died in office. Their vice-presidents functioned as acting president until a new president was elected. Following Hussain’s death, two acting presidents held office until the new president, Varahagiri Venkata Giri, was elected. Varahagiri Venkata Giri himself, Hussain’s vice president, was the first acting president. When Giri resigned to take part in the presidential elections, he was superseded by Muhammad Hidayatullah as acting president. The current President is Pranab Mukherjee elected on 25 July 2012. Mukherjee held various posts in the cabinet ministry for the Government of India such as Finance Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. He originally comes from West Bengal and is also the first Bengali to hold the post of the President. The ex- president, Pratibha Patil, who was in office till 25 July 2012, was elected as the 12th President of India in 2007. She is also the first woman to serve as President of India.

Name (Birth–Death) Portrait Took office Left office
Rajendra Prasad
(1884–1963)

Dr. Rajendra Prasad

Dr. Rajendra Prasad

26 January 1950 12 May 1962
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
(1888–1975)

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

13 May 1962 13 May 1967
Zakir Hussain
(1897–1969)

Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain

13 May 1967 3 May 1969
Varahagiri Venkata Giri
(1894–1980)

Varahagiri Venkata Giri

Sh. Varahagiri Venkata Giri

3 May 1969 20 July 1969
Mohammad Hidayatullah
(1905–1992)

Md. Hidayatullah

Md. Hidayatullah

20 July 1969 24 August 1969
Varahagiri Venkata Giri
(1894–1980)

Varahagiri Venkata Giri

Sh. Varahagiri Venkata Giri

24 August 1969 24 August 1974
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
(1905–1977)
24 August 1974 11 February 1977
Basappa Danappa Jatti
(1912–2002)
11 February 1977 25 July 1977
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
(1913–1996)

Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy

Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy

25 July 1977 25 July 1982
Giani Zail Singh
(1916–1994)

Giani Zail Singh

Giani Zail Singh

25 July 1982 25 July 1987
Ramaswamy Venkataraman
(1910–2009)

R. Venkataraman

R. Venkataraman

25 July 1987 25 July 1992
Shankar Dayal Sharma
(1918–1999)

Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma

Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma

25 July 1992 25 July 1997
Kocheril Raman Narayanan
(1920–2005)

K.R. Narayanan

K.R. Narayanan

25 July 1997 25 July 2002
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
(b. 1931)

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

25 July 2002 25 July 2007
Pratibha Patil
(b. 1934)

Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil

Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil

25 July 2007 25 July 2012
Pranab Mukherjee
(b. 1935)

Pranab Kumar Mukherjee

Pranab Kumar Mukherjee

25 July 2012 Incumbent