Pratibha Devisingh Patil (About this sound pronunciation (help·info)) (born 19 December 1934) is an Indian politician who served as the 12th President of India from 2007 to 2012; she was the first woman to hold the office. She was sworn in as President on 25 July 2007, succeeding Abdul Kalam, after defeating her rival Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. She retired from the office in July 2012. She was succeeded as President by Pranab Mukherjee.
Patil is a member of the Indian National Congress (INC) and was nominated for the presidency by the governing United Progressive Alliance and Indian Left.
Pratibha Devisingh Patil is the daughter of Narayan Rao Patil. She was born on 19 December 1934 in the village of Nadgaon, in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, India. She was educated initially at RR Vidyalaya, Jalgaon and subsequently was awarded a Masters degree in Political Science and Economics by Mooljee Jetha College, Jalgaon, and then a Bachelor of Law degree by Government Law College, Mumbai. Patil then began to practice law at the Jalgaon District Court, while also taking interest in social issues such as improving the conditions faced by Indian women.
Patil married Devisingh Ransingh Shekhawat on 7 July 1965. The couple have a son and a daughter.
The BBC has described Patil’s political career prior to assuming Presidential office as “long and largely low-key”. In 1962, at the age of 27, she was elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for the Jalgaon constituency. Thereafter she won in the Muktainagar (formerly Edlabad) constituency on four consecutive occasions between 1967 and 1985, before becoming a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha between 1985 and 1990. In the 1991 elections for the 10th Lok Sabha, she was elected as a Member of Parliament representing the Amravati constituency. A period of retirement from politics followed later in that decade.
Patil had held various Cabinet portfolios during her period in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and she had also held official positions while in both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. In addition, she had been for some years the president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and also held office as Director of the National Federation of Urban Co-operative Banks and Credit Societies and as a Member of the Governing Council of the National Co-operative Union of India.
On 8 November 2004 she was appointed as the 24th Governor of Rajasthan and she was the first woman to hold that office, and, according to the BBC, was “a low-profile” incumbent.
Patil was announced as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate on 14 June 2007. She emerged as a compromise candidate after the Left parties would not agree to the nomination of former Home Minister Shivraj Patil or Karan Singh.
Due to the role being largely a figurehead position, the selection of candidate is often arranged by consensus among the various political parties and the candidate runs unopposed. Contrary to the normal pattern of events, Patil faced a challenge in the election. The BBC described the situation as “the latest casualty of the country’s increasingly partisan politics and [it] highlights what is widely seen as an acute crisis of leadership”. It “degenerated into unseemly mud slinging between the ruling party and the opposition”. Her challenger was Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the incumbent vice-president and a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran. Shekhawat stood as an independent candidate and was supported by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a group led by the BJP, although the Shiv Sena party, which was a part of NDA, supported her because of her Marathi origin.
Patil won the election held on 19 July 2007. She garnered nearly two-thirds of the votes and took office as India’s first woman president on 25 July 2007.
Pratibha Patil’s term as the President of India saw various controversies. For example, during her term as president, Patil commuted the death sentences of 35 petitioners to life, a record — among them are those convicted of mass murder, kidnapping, rape and killing of children. The Presidential office, however, defended this by saying that the President had granted clemency to the petitioners after due consideration and examining the advice of the Home Ministry.
Patil was noted for having spent more money on foreign trips, and having taken a greater number of foreign trips, than any prior president.
The office of president has a five-year term and Patil retired from the role in July 2012.