Know India’s Vice-Presidents Down The Years

The Vice-President of India is the second highest office in the country after the President. Our new Vice-President is Jagdeep Dhankar. He succeeds Venkaiah Naidu. Dhankar was the NDA candidate for the post and was earlier West Bengal Governor before being chosen for this prestigious post. He has been described as ‘Kisan Putra’ by the Prime Minister and as ‘People’s Governor’ by the BJP party president. Before being the Vice-President and West Bengal Governor, he was a lawyer in the Rajasthan High Court and also in the Supreme Court. He has also been MLA and Union minister.

In the Vice-Presidential elections on August 6, Dhankar defeated former minister and Governor Margaret Alva by a landslide majority securing 528 votes against Margaret Alva’s 182. He is the second leader from Rajasthan after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to be Vice-President. It was a comfortable win since apart from NDA, several parties like Naveen Patnaik’s BJD, YSR Congress, BSP and TDP also supported Dhankar.

Let us take a look at the 13 distinguished personalities who have occupied this high post. Six of them went on to become the President as well.

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the Vice-President for 2 terms. The President for both these terms was Dr Rajendra Prasad. Dr Radhakrishnan was the 1st Vice-President to be elevated as President. He was called the Philosopher President and he was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize for Literature. His birthday on September 5 is celebrated as Teachers Day. Dr Radhakrishnan was one of the founders of Helpage India, which does yeoman service for the aged.

Dr Zakir Hussain was the next Vice-President. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the President at that time. Dr Hussain was the 1st Muslim Vice-President and also the 1st Muslim President. He was also the 1st President to pass away in office.

V V Giri followed Dr Zakir Hussain both as Vice-President and as President. He was the 1st Independent candidate to become the President of India. He was the acting President when Dr Zakir Hussain passed away. He is the only dignitary who has been Vice-President, acting President and President of India.

G S Pathak succeeded V V Giri. The President was Dr Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad. Pathak was the 1st Vice-President who did not go on to become the President. His son, Justice R S Pathak, later became the Chief Justice of India.

B D Jatti was the 5th Vice-President. During his tenure, there were two Presidents, Dr Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad and Neelam Sanjiva Reddy. He was the acting President when Dr Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad passed away. As acting President, he revoked the national Emergency and also sworn in Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister. Prior to being Vice-President, he held important posts such as Governor of Odisha and CM of Mysore.

Justice Muhammed Hidayatullah succeeded B D Jatti as Vice-President. That time the Presidents were Neelam Sanjiva Reddy and Giani Zail Singh. He was acting President twice. The 1st time was when he was the Chief Justice of India and acting President V V Giri resigned to contest the Presidential elections. The second time was as Vice-President when President Giani Zail Singh went to the USA for medical treatment.

Ramaswamy Venkatraman was our next Vice-President and Giani Zail Singh was the President. He was a lawyer turned political leader who was earlier the Finance Minister as well as the Defence Minister of India. He had initiated India’s 1st missile development program and appointed well-known scientist A P J Abul Kalam as the mission head by shifting him from space development to missile development.

He was the 7th Vice-President and was the 4th Vice-President to become the President after the 1st three Vice-Presidents had done so.

Shankar Dayal Sharma succeeded Ramaswamy Venkatraman both as Vice-President and as President. He had an illustrious career prior to becoming Vice-President. He was Chief Minister at the age of just 34. He was a Union Cabinet minister as well and also Governor of multiple states such as Punjab, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. His daughter Geetanjali and son-in-law Lalit Maken were killed by Sikh militants.

Kocheri Raman Narayanan was the next Vice-President and he continued the trend of Vice-Presidents going on to become the President. He was an IFS officer who was called the best diplomat of the country by Pandit Nehru. He was Ambassador to four of the most important countries, the UK, USA, China and Japan. He was the 1st President to vote when in office and he stood in the queue with other voters. He was a brilliant student from a poor Dalit family and could go to the UK due to a scholarship/grant of Rs 16,000 by JRD Tata. In LSE he was a student of Harold Laski. When he returned to India in 1948, Professor Laski gave him a letter to be given to Pandit Nehru, the 1st Prime Minister of India. He sought an appointment with the PM which was given as he was an Indian student returning from London. They spoke for a few minutes and then the meeting was coming to an end when Narayanan gave Laski’s letter and left. The PM quickly read the letter and called him back and asked, “Why did you not give me this letter earlier?” Narayanan said, “Sir, I thought it will be ok if I hand it over at the time of leaving”. The PM asked him a few more questions and he joined the Indian Foreign Service. Narayanan’s wife was Burmese and her name was Ma Tint Tint which she changed to Usha. When they got married, the rule was that an IFS officer cannot marry a foreigner, and this rule was specially relaxed for him by Pandit Nehru. Subsequently, the rule itself was done away with.

Narayanan is the last Vice-President who went on to become the President.

Krishan Kant was the next Vice-President. The Presidents were K R Narayanan and Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. Kant was a CSIR scientist turned political leader who was Lok Sabha MP from Chandigarh, two-term Rajya Sabha MP from Haryana and had also been Governor of Andhra Pradesh. He had some interesting career highlights such as being expelled from the Congress party for opposition to the Emergency and he had with Madhu Limaye and Raj Narain also brought down the Morarji Desai government by insisting that RSS-affiliated members should not be ministers.

Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who was known as the Lion of Rajasthan, was the next Vice-President. That time A P J Abdul Kalam was the President. Shekhawat’s life story is inspirational. He was a Sub-Inspector of Police who resigned as Police Inspector when just 29 to contest elections. He was MLA as many as 10 times and MP as well and he rose to become the Chief Minister of Rajasthan thrice. He is the only non-Congress political leader to be Rajasthan CM three times and he was also the 1st non-Congress CM of Rajasthan.

Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the 1st Vice-President to lose a Presidential election, which was in 2007, to Congress candidate Pratibha Patil. In his sterling career, he played a notable role in removal of the practice of Sati from the Rajput community. His Antyodaya Yojna scheme was intended for the welfare of the poor for which World Bank Chairman Robert Mcnamara called him the Rockefeller of India.

Muhammed Hamid Ansari, a former diplomat and academician, was the next Vice-President. He was an IFS officer of the 1961 batch and was Ambassador to several countries. He thereafter was a visiting Professor at JNU and was also the VC of Jamia Milia Islamia. He is only the second Vice-President to have two tenures. August 11, 2007 to August 10, 2017. During his tenure, there were three Presidents, A P J Abdul Kalam, Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee, popularly called Pranab Da.

Venkaiah Naidu was our next Vice-President with Ram Nath Kovind as the President. He had the distinction of being Cabinet Minister in both the Vajpayee government and Modi government. He was also a former BJP national president.

Vice-Presidents who went on to become President are therefore Dr S Radhakrishnan, Dr Zakir Hussain, V V Giri, S Venkatraman, S D Sharma and K R Narayanan.

Vice-Presidents who could not become President are G S Pathak, B D Jatti, Justice M Hidayatullah, Krishan Kant, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Mohammad Hamid Ansari and Venkaiah Naidu.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the opinion of the website)

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