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Pratibha Patil was born in a Kunbi family to Narayan Rao in Jalgaon, Maharashtra. She completed her M.A. from M.J. College, Jalgaon, and obtained a Law Degree from the Government Law College, Mumbai.
During her college days, she excelled in table tennis, winning several shields in inter-college tournaments.
In 1962, Pratibha Patil was voted "College Queen" of Mooljee Jaitha (MJ) College in Jalgaon. The same year, she got a party ticket to the Assembly election from Jalgaon constituency and went on to win the election with a huge margin.
She married educator Devisingh Ransingh Shekhawat on July 7, 1965. The couple has a son and a daughter.
Together with her husband, she set up an educational institute, Vidya Bharati Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, which runs a chain of schools and colleges in Jalgaon and Mumbai. She has also set up hostels for working women in New Delhi and Mumbai, an engineering college for rural youths in Jalgaon. She also founded and is the chairperson of a sugar factory in Jalgaon.
She was also involved in setting up an Industrial Training School for the Blind in Jalgaon and running a school for poor children of Vimukta Jamatis & Nomadic Tribes. Political Career
Pratibha Patil joined politics at an early age, and won her first elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from Jalgaon in 1962. At the age of 27, she was among the youngest MLAs at the time. Under the mentorship of senior Congress leader and ex-Chief Minister Yashwantrao Chavan, she became a deputy minister for education after re-election in 1967 (in the Vasantrao Naik ministry), becoming a full cabinet minister after re-election in 1972. In successive congress governments, she handled the portfolios of tourism, social welfare and housing under three chief ministers: Vasantdada Patil, Babasaheb Bhosle, S. B. Chavan and Sharad Pawar, gaining a reputation for her competence. She was continually re-elected to the assembly, either from Jalgaon or the nearby Edlabad constituencies, until 1985, when she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.