New Delhi, 26 May-2014: The new NDA-led government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that will be sworn-in on Monday will be a “small and compact one”, with several high-profile women. Around seven of the 45 ministers in the cabinet are expected to be women. These include some big names like Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Maneka Gandhi and Nirmala Seetharaman.
When the UPA government was sworn-in, there were 80 ministers including Ministers of State, and those with independent charge. The number of women ministers in this government was 9. In comparison, the proportion of women in the NDA-led government is much higher. Here is a brief look at the ministers in the new government.
Sushma Swaraj: Ms Swaraj will handle External Affairs at Modi’s cabinet. She hails from Ambala and was the youngest-ever Cabinet Minister from Haryana at the age of 25. In 1998, she was briefly the Chief Minister of Delhi, also its first woman CM. She was the Minister of Health, Family Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs from January 2003 until May 2004. Sushma won from Bellary against the Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 1999.
Sushma Swaraj is also the first woman Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha, replacing Lal Krishna Advani in 2009.
Smriti Zubin Irani: Smriti Irani will handle the Human Resources Development ministry. Despite her defeat in Amethi, where she stood against Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Irani made it to the cabinet. Currently she is the party Vice President, the yesteryear TV actress will be the youngest minister in this cabinet at the age of 38. She joined the party in 2003. In 2010 she was made National Secretary of the party and also appointed as All India President of the BJP Mahila Morcha.
Maneka Gandhi: Maneka Gandhi will handle the Women and Child Development Ministry. Initial reports suggested that her son Varun will be made a minister, but latest reports indicate that Varun’s name has been left out. Though Maneka never got her fair share of attention as the Gandhi bahu, she has been a strong presence in the politics of the country ever since Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister. Once a strong supporter of the Congress party, she started her own party after she fell out with her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. She later joined the BJP in 2004. Her work on environment and animal rights are well noted.
Nirmala Seetharaman: Nirmalawill be the Minister for state with Independent charge. It is not yet clear as to which portfolio Nirmala will be handed, but the BJP’s spokesperson since 2010 demands a good one given her experience with the National Commission for Women. Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Nirmala completed her studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Najma Heptullah: Najma Heptullah is the Minister for Minority Affairs. She is the Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, and assumed office on 24 April 2012. She is the niece of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, a freedom fighter and India’s first Minister of Education. Najma, who was initially a member of the Indian National Congress, joined the BJP in 2004. Reports suggested that she left the Congress because her relationship with Congress president Sonia Gandhi was turning sour. Later Najma even alleged that she was personally humiliated by Sonia Gandhi and declared she was leaving the party because of her differences with the leadership.
Uma Bharti: Bharti will be the Minister for Water Resources and Ganga Cleaning.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal: She will be the Minister for Food Processing Industry. Kaur won from the Bathinda seat for the second time and is a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal. She is also the wife of the party chief and Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. She is the only woman MP from Punjab. Kaur, a graduate in Textile Engineering, Kaur is 47 years old.
(Input source: TNM)