Pratap was born the son of the King of Daiya in northern India. In 1936 his father gave him to the childless ruler of a neighboring state, Ram Gopal Singh of Manda, to be adopted, and he was forbidden contact with his birth family. He was well education but tuberculosis marred his childhood, and he was largely brought up by a Scottish couple in the palace.
He succeeded to the throne when he was 10 on the death of his adoptive father, but during his early reign he had to be protected by armed bodyguards because of disputes about his eligibility to the throne and attempts by his birth family to reclaim him.
He was educated at Varanasi, Allahabad and Pune Universities and graduated in law. He became involved in the reform movements after independence and was elected first to the Assembly of Uttar Pradesh and then to Parliament in 1971. He was a cabinet minister under both Indira Ghandi and her son Rajiv, but his popularity in the Congress (I) Party was undermined by his determination to uncover corruption in government, and he was forced to resign from the government. He headed the coalition which finally unseated Congress (I) in 1989 and became prime minister on 2 December 1989, but inter-coalition disagreements led to the fall of his government 11 months later.
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