Pratibha Patil became the first female president of India
on July 25, 2007. She was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice
of India K.G. Balkrishnan, began her five-year tenure by making an
appeal, for socially inclusive economic growth and the need to forge
unity to fight divisive and destructive forces, such as communalism and terrorism.
MPs elected the 72-year-old lawyer by a landslide over the
84-year-old vice- president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for the largely ceremonial post of head
of state. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party,
said "In the 60th year of our independence, for the first time, we have a woman
president and I want to thank our alliance partners and all those who voted for her."
Pratibha Patil, a native of a town of Jalgaon in western Maharashtra state, defeated Shekhawat by a large
margin, securing 66 per cent of the votes cast by an electoral college of
federal and state MPs. "I am grateful to the voters... I am grateful to the people of India, the men
and women of India," Patil said outside her New Delhi home, as supporters danced
in the streets and burst firecrackers in celebration. "This is the victory of the principles which our Indian people uphold," she told
reporters. Flashing a victory sign, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Patil's win a vote
against "the politics of divisiveness ... a vote in favour of unity and for
strengthening the foundation of our democracy".
Pratibha Patil was born on December 19, 1934 in India's western state of Maharashtra,
in a small town of Jalgaon district. She was married to Devisingh Shekhwat of Choti Losal village in Sikar
district of Rajasthan. She practised in Maharastra as a lawyer
before joining politics. She joined Congress in the early 1960s before spending some two decades in
Maharashtra's state legislature. Mrs Patil has been a staunch ally of Sonia Gandhi
She moved into national politics, sitting in both the lower and upper chambers of India's
national parliament before leaving the political stage in the late 1990s.
She appointed as governor of Rajasthan in 2004 and become the first woman governor in the north- western state.
She came in for heavy criticism from opposition figures and in the Indian media after emerging as a candidate for president.
Some criticised Mrs Patil's character; others highlighted her time away from high-level politics.
But the reports were dismissed as "mud-slinging", and as the vote approached Mrs Patil stridently rejected the criticism, insisting
all accusations against her were politically-motivated. Instead her supporters suggested Mrs Patil's election would prove to be a landmark for women in a country where millions routinely face violence, discrimination and poverty.
Pratibha Patil was the country's 13th and first women President after 60 years of independence.