Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was the fifth President of India. He served as president from 1974 to 1977 during the tenure of Indira Gandhi.He isone of the greatest sons of Assam and India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was a highly successful political leader who left a permanent imprint on the political landscape of India, leaving every citizen immensely inspired till date.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was born in Hauz Qazi area of the walled city of Old Delhi to Col. Zalnur Ali and daughter of Nawab of Lohari. His father, during his bachelorhood, was serving in Indian Medical Service when he was asked to leave Assam. He, along with Col. Sibram Bora, was offered seats in the Shillong Club away from the European guests at a function. On boycotting the function, he was transferred to the distant North-West Province. This was where he came in contact with the Nawab of Lahori in Delhi and eventually, married his daughter. His grandfather was khaliuddin Ali Ahmed of Kacharighat near Golaghat of Assam.
He studied in the Government High School in Gonda District of Uttar Pradesh. He finished his matriculation examination from Delhi Government High School. He went to England in 1923 to pursue his higher studies from St. Catherine's College, Cambridge. After his return from London, he started practicing law in Lahore High Court in 1928.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed married a young 21-year old Abida on November 9, 1945 at the age of 40. Abida was educated at Aligarh Muslim University and belonged to a respectable family from Uttar Pradesh. Begum Abida Saheba was elected to Lok Sabha in 1981 from UP constituency.
He met Jawaharlal Nehru in England in 1925. He joined the Indian National Congress and actively participated in the Indian freedom struggle, though he was persuaded by his co-religionists to join the Muslim League. He offered Satyagraha in 1940 for which he was arrested and imprisoned. Further in 1942, he supported the Quit India Movement for which he was yet again arrested in August 9, while returning from the historic session of All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in Bombay. He was, thus, detained as a security prisoner for three and a half years until April 1945.
While serving as a Congress leader, Ali Ahmed occupied several positions. To begin with, he was a member of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee since 1936 and was elected to Assam Assembly in 1935. Later, he became the Minister of Finance, Revenue, and Labor in September 1938. During his term at the Ministerial office, Ali Ahmed gave a proof of his administrative abilities. He introduced the Assam Agricultural Income Tax Bill, the first of its kind in India, which levied taxes on tea garden lands in the Province and his pro-labor policy in the labor strike in the British-owned Assam Oil Company Ltd. Though Ali Ahmed also met with criticism, what was one thing that had been established was his ability as an administrator.
After Independence he was elected on Congress ticket to the Assam Assembly on two terms (1957-1962) and (1962-1967).Earlier, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha (1952-1953) and thereafter became Advocate-General of the Government of Assam. Though Ali Ahmed occupied a senior position in the Chaliha Ministry from 1957 he was asked by Jawaharlal Nehru to join his Cabinet at the Centre in January 1966. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Barpeta constituency in 1971. In the Central Cabinet he was given important portfolios relating to Food and Agriculture, Cooperation, Education, Industrial Development and Company Laws.He attained the membership of AICC from 1947 to 1974. His induction to the Central Cabinet was perhaps because of his close link with, and loyalty to the Nehru family and also for his acumen in administration.
With the split of congress in 1969, Fakhruddin chose to be with Indira Gandhi due to his deep-rooted association with Nehru and his family. As such, he was picked up by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as the President of India on August 29, 1974, thereby becoming the second Muslim Indian president after Dr Zakir Hussain. In the wake of Emergency rule in 1975, Fakhruddin became the target of his detractors claiming that he put his signature at the behest of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was unable to complete his 5-year tenure as the President of India since he suffered a heart attack immediately after his return from a tour of the South-East Asian countries. He breathed his last on 11th February, 1977 in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi while still in office. He was 71 years old.
He was a tennis player and golfer; he was elected President of the Assam Football Association and the Assam Cricket Association several times. He was elected as the Vice-President of the Assam Sports Council. In April, 1967 he was elected President of the All India Cricket Association and also was a member of the Delhi Golf Club and the Delhi Gymkhana Club.