Dr Rajendra Prasad
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the first President of independent India. His contribution to the nation runs much deeper. He was one of the prominent leaders of the Indian Nationalist Movement alongside Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
He was one of those passionate individuals who gave up a lucrative profession to pursue a greater goal of attaining freedom for the Motherland. He took up the helms of designing the Constitution of the nascent nation by heading up the Constituent Assembly post-independence. Dr. Prasad was one of the chief architects in shaping the Republic of India.
Early Life and Education: Rajendra Prasad was born to Mahadev Sahai and Kamleshwari Devi at Zeradei, in the Siwan district of Bihar on December 3, 1884. He was the youngest kid of the family. He was a meritorious student, he received his early education from Moulavi, an accomplished Muslim scholar, who taught him Persian, Hindi and arithmetic.He later studied at the Chapra District School and T.K. Ghosh's Academy in Patna. For higher education, he moved to Calcutta where he secured a scholarship at the Presidency College, for a degree in science. He later changed his stream of studies from science to arts, attaining his MA in Economics in 1907. Completing his education, he took up the job of a professor of English at the Langat Singh College in Muzaffarpur and was soon was promoted as the principal. In 1908, he left his chair of the principal to pursue a degree in law at the Calcutta City College, where he doubled up as a professor of Economics. In 1915, he graduated with honors with a Masters degree in Law, winning a gold medal. In 1937, he completed his Doctorate in Law from Allahabad University .Meanwhile in 1911, joined the Indian National Congress.
Role in the Nationalist Movement
1. Dr. Prasad entered the political arena in a quiet, light-footed manner. He attended as a volunteer in the 1906 Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress and formally joined the party in 1911. He was subsequently elected to the AICC.
2. Dr. Prasad was mightily impressed by Gandhi’s demeanor, dedication and philosophy. Gandhi undertook the ‘Champaran Satyagraha’ and Dr. Prasad offered his whole-hearted support to the cause.
3. In 1920, when Gandhi announced the commencement of the Non-cooperation movement, Dr. Prasad gave up his lucrative law practice and dedicated himself to the cause of freedom.
4. He led the programs of non-cooperation in Bihar. He toured the state, holding public meetings and making heartfelt speeches for the support of movement.
5. He undertook collection of funds to enable the continuation of the movement. He urged people to boycott Government schools, colleges and offices.
6. He started the National College in Patna in 1921. He upheld the ideas of Swadeshi, asking people to boycott foreign goods, peruse the spinning wheel and wear only khadi garments.
President of the Bombay Session
Nationalist India expressed its admiration by electing Rajendra Prasad as the President of the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress in October 1934.
He was elected President for a second time in 1939 when Subhash Chandra Bose resigned from the post. His third stint as the President of All India Congress Party was in 1947 when J. B. Kripalani resigned from the post.
Nationalist India expressed its admiration by electing Rajendra Prasad as the President of the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress in October 1934. He was elected President for a second time in 1939 when Subhash Chandra Bose resigned from the post.
His third stint as the President of All India Congress Party was in 1947 when J. B. Kripalani resigned from the post.
Role in Quit India Movement
Dr Rajendra Prasad became very much involved in the Quit India movement launched by Gandhi in 1942. He led protests and demonstrations in Bihar (Patna in particular). The nationwide uproar demanding independence instigated the British Government to undertake mass arrest of all influential Congress leaders. Dr. Prasad was arrested from Sadaqat Ashram, Patna and was sent to Bankipur Central Jail where he spent 3 years imprisonment. He was released on 15 June 1945. Dr. Prasad embraced an austere and simplified life. He readily gave up on luxuries like servants and riches. He renounced his pride and ego, even started performing household chores like sweeping, washing and cooking.
First President of Independent India:
Dr Rajendra Prasad was selected as the Food and Agriculture Minister in the interim Government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1946. Soon he was elected President of the Constituent Assembly on December 11, the same year. He presided over the Constituent Assembly from 1946 till 1949 and helped frame the Constitution of India. On January 26, 1950, the Republic of India came into existence and Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected to be the first ever President of the country. Unfortunately, on the night of 25 January 1950, a day before the Republic Day of India, his sister Bhagwati Devi passed away. He set about the cremation but only after his return from the parade ground. As President of India, he duly acted as per the Constitution, independent of any political party. He travelled the world extensively as an ambassador of India, building diplomatic rapport with foreign nations. He was re-elected for 2 consecutive terms in 1952 and 1957, and remains only President of India to achieve this feat.
For his unconditional contribution as a leader of the Indian National Congress and as the President of India, he was conferred with India’s highest civilian award - Bharat Ratna. A Bharat Ratna recipient, he was the first President of free India and the only one to serve for two terms in the office of the President.