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Sansad TV: Our Presidents: Giani Zail Singh




  • He was the seventh president of India, serving from 1982 to 1987, and the first Sikh to hold the office.
  • In 1982, he was unanimously nominated to serve as the President.
  • Prior to his presidency, he was a politician with the Indian National Congress party, and had held several ministerial posts in the Union Cabinet, including that of Home Minister.
  • Starting his career with state politics, in 1949, he became the Revenue minister of the recently formed Patiala and East Punjab States Union under chief minister Gian Singh Rarewala
  • He became minister of Agriculture in 1951 and became a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1956 till 1962
  • He also served as the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movementfrom 1983 to 1986.
  • His presidency was marked by Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
  • After India became independent in 1947, Singh served in the Rajya Sabha (upper chamber of the Indian parliament) in 1956–62 and was chief minister (head of government) of Punjab in 1972–77.
  • When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was voted out of power in 1977, Singh continued to support her. Singh won a seat in the 1980 elections to the Lok Sabha (lower chamber of the parliament), as did Gandhi, who again became prime minister.

As chief minister and President

  • He was elected as a Chief Minister of Punjab in 1972. He arranged massive religious gatherings, started public functions with a traditional Sikh prayer, inaugurated a highway named after Guru Gobind Singh, and named a township after the Guru’s son.
  • He created a lifelong pension scheme for the freedom fighters of the state. He repatriated the remains of Udham Singh from London, armaments and articles belonging to Guru Gobind Singh.
  • Also, in 1986 he exercised the Pocket veto with respect to the Indian Post Office (Amendment) Bill, passed by Rajiv Gandhi, imposing restrictions on the freedom of press and hence, was widely criticised.
  • The bill was later withdrawn by the V. P. Singh Government in 1990.