When former President Pratibha Patil was accused of impropriety
With the election of Draupadi Murmu by the NDA as its presidential candidate, Pratibha Patil is remembered as the first woman to become President of the Republic of India. While Murmu is already hailed as a humble and popular face and is likely to become the first female tribal president, Patil’s tenure is being recalled to this day for all the wrong reasons.
From jet-set trips abroad with family entourages to personal possession of diplomatically exchanged gifts, Pratibha Patil has always reflected an aristocratic demeanor during his presidency.
Exquisite foreign travels
Former Congress leader who was probably raised to be a Sonia Gandhi loyalist, Pratibha Patil served as President of India from 2007 to 2012. Her tenure was one of the most insignificant and was more known for spending too much taxpayer money on his trips abroad.
His trips abroad with his family members cost the treasury up to Rs 205 crore. Patil frequently took his whole family, including his grandchildren, on holidays abroad using public money. Other than that, she was regularly accompanied by her husband, her son’s family and her daughter’s family on state visits.
An RTI filed by activist SC Agrawal said Pratibha Patil went with at least 10 of her relatives to travel through places in India. Patil’s parents were to be treated as presidential guests on his order. On her trips abroad, she would take her grandchildren to countries like Poland, UK, Russia, Spain and other countries. Patil’s exquisite travels caused a lot of fury during her tenure, a criticism she royally ignored.
Personal possession of foreign gifts
Another RTI was filed by the same activist when it was discovered that Pratibha Patil had taken gifts exchanged during diplomatic visits in his personal possession. While gifts received by the president must be deposited with the official gifts treasury in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Patil had wrapped more than 150 gifts received by her from her foreign counterparts in her hometown of Amravati, Maharashtra.
The gifts included a stone box presented by the US President, a set of candles from the British Prime Minister, a wooden framed photo of the President of Vietnam, a souvenir from the FIFA President, a gold medallion and a silver medallion from Nelson Mandela. a gift box from China. These were exhibited at a school exhibition organized by Vidya Bharati Shaikshanik Mandal led by Patil herself.
When Pranab Mukherjee took over the presidency after Patil’s term ended, his secretary’s office asked Patil to return all gifts as soon as possible. Pratibha Patil, even after her term ended, continued to be engulfed in controversy over her exorbitant spending on a personal lifestyle run by public money.
A post-retirement home in Pune
In the 340-room Rashtrapati Bhavan, former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam took care of just two – a bedroom and his office. However, Pratibha Patil displayed behavior quite opposite to his predecessor. During his tenure, The Rashtrapati Bhavan housed not only Patil’s family but a host of other family members as well. As guests, their lifestyle was also supported by the state treasury.
After his retirement, Patil built himself a mansion in the Khadki cantonment area of Pune. For her post-retirement home, she requested over five acres of land to build her lavish 4,500 square foot home. Controversy erupted when it was discovered that Patil was intent on building a house for herself, which was on defensive land.
“Justice for Jawan” organization based in Pune alleged that Patil’s house was to be built on the land by destroying two British-era bungalows intended for servicemen of the armed forces. It should be noted that Patil’s house was also being built with government money, when she claimed accommodation under the President’s Emoluments and Pensions Act of 1951.
Anup Awasthi, a former naval officer informed, “On several occasions, war widows had attempted to meet with Patil to return the medals of bravery which had been awarded to their husbands in protest against the government’s apathy towards war widows. But she didn’t even bother to meet them.
India’s first female president, Pratibha Patil’s tenure has always been announced in one controversy or another. Her thinking as a ceremonial head of state, which she took very personally, was anything but humble.