In all likelihood, BJP-led NDA’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind will become the 14th president of the country. Even if the Opposition fields a candidate, Kovind is likely to sail through successfully as numbers are stacked in NDA’s favour.
When Kovind is sworn in as president on July 25, he will become the seventh youngest person to be anointed to the coveted post.
Born on October 1, 1945 at Kanpur Dehat, Uttar Pradesh, Kovind is 71 years old. Six presidents were younger than him when they ascended to the chair and the remaining seven were older than him.
Sixth president Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (July 25 1977 to July 25, 1982) was the youngest president, having taken over at the age of 64 years. He is followed by first president Rajendra Prasad (January 26, 1950 to May 13, 1962) who was 65 years when he was sworn in to office.
Seventh president Giani Zail Singh (July 25, 1982 to July 25, 1987) at 66 years came next. He was followed by fifth president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (August 24, 1974 to February 11, 1977), who was 69 years when he was sworn in as president.
Third president Zakir Hussain (May 13, 1967 to May 3, 1969) was 70 years and 3 months while 11th president APJ Abdul Kalam (July 25, 2002 to July 25, 2007) was 70 years 9 months when the two became the president.
Pratibha Patil (July 25, 2007 to July 25, 2012) was 72 years old when she was sworn in as the 12th president.
Both second president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (May 13, 1962 to May 13, 1967) and ninth president Shankar Dayal Sharma (July 25, 1992 to July 25, 1997) were aged 73 when they became president. However, while Radhakrishnan was 73 years 8 months old, Sharma was 73 years 11 months old.
VV Giri, the fourth president (August 24, 1969 to August 24, 1974), was 75 years of age when he took oath.
The maximum three presidents were of 76 years of age when they were sworn in to the post. However, there was a difference of a few months between them. While tenth president KR Narayanan (July 25, 1997 to July 25, 2002) was 76 years 5 months old, 13th president Pranab Mukherjee was 76 years, 7 months and 14 days old when he took oath on July 25, 2012.
Eighth president R Venkataraman (July 25, 1987 to July 25, 1992) was the oldest among all. He was 76 years, 7 months and 21 days when he became president.
PRESIDENTS DYING IN HARNESS
Two presidents died in office. Third president Zakir Hussain died on May 3, 1969, just 10 days before he could complete two years in office. Fifth president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed died on February 11, 1977, 13 days before he could complete half of his five-year term.
VV Giri was the first acting president, having taken over after the death of Zakir Hussain on May 3, 1969. He was in office in acting capacity till he resigned on July 20, 1969 to take part in presidential election.
From July 20, 1969, Chief Justice of India Mohammad Hidayatullah served as the second acting president. He was on the post till VV Giri was elected as the fourth president on August 24, 1969.
India saw the third acting president when fifth president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed died in office on February 11, 1977. BD Jatti, who was the vice president then, took over as the acting president. He served on the post till Neelam Sanjiva Reddy took over as president on July 25, 1977.
ELEVATION OF VICE PRESIDENTS
Of the 13 presidents so far, almost half of them (six) rose from the post of vice president. They are Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain, VV Giri, R Venkataraman, Shankar Dayal Sharma and KR Narayanan. The remaining straightaway became president. The same would be the case of Kovind if he becomes presidents.
CONSENSUS VS ELECTED
Of the 14 presidential elections held so far, the only one to be elected by consensus was Neelam Sanjiva Reddy. Otherwise, no other candidate, not even Rajendra Prasad or APJ Abdul Kalam, has been elected unopposed.
Hence, it is likely that Kovind, a Dalit, may also face contest. The Opposition, in all likelihood, will field a candidate to contest against Kovind. They may also field a Dalit such as former speaker Meira Kumar or former Union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. They may also pit Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi against Kovind.
CASTE AND RELIGION
Of the 13 presidents so far, three (Zakir Hussain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and APJ Abdul Kalam) were Muslims and one (Giani Zail Singh) was Sikh. The remaining seven were Hindus. A secular country like India is yet to see a Christian or a Parsi president or a president from other religions.
As far as caste is concerned, people from upper castes have dominated the post. So far, the country has seen just one Dalit president in KR Narayanan. Kovind, if elected, would be the second one. No one from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category has been anointed to the post so far. Had Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu made it, she would have been the first president belonging to the ST category.
ELECTION CHALLENGED IN SUPREME COURT
So far, election for the post of president has been held on 14 occasions. All but three elections were challenged in the Supreme Court. As per Article 71 of the Constitution, all doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with the election of a president or vice president are inquired into and decided by the Supreme Court whose decision is final.
Except for Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Pratibha Patil, the election of all other 12 presidents has been challenged in the apex court. Even in Rajendra Prasad case, his election in the second term was challenged in the court.