India’s performance in the representation of women in Indian Parliament has been abysmal. However, despite being in the minority, we do have some powerful female leaders who have proven themselves.
Over the years, some of the most powerful women in Indian Parliament that I believe have made a significant impact on people with their work are:
Born in Ambala, Sushma Swaraj, the Union Minister for External Affairs of India, is one of the most powerful women in Indian Parliament. A former supreme court lawyer, she became the youngest cabinet minister at the age of 25 and has been elected the Member of Parliament seven times. Ever since she took charge as the External Affairs Minister, she has been winning hearts of Indians across the globe through her active and impromptu support through Twitter. In fact, she has helped several Indians abroad in times of crisis through twitter.
Her work has on occasion been appreciated in the Parliament even by leaders of other parties. Bhagwant Mann, the AAP leader, thanked the Minister for doing an exceptionally good job in saving the people from his constituency who had been enslaved in Saudi Arabia. Further, in her UN general assembly address on September 23, 2017, Sushma Swaraj powerfully hit back at Pakistan for terrorism.
Formerly the Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Nirmala Sitharaman, is the second female Defence Minister of India. She also brought in notable development in trade and commerce during her tenure as the Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs. She has focused on cutting down business norms and license requirements in the country, reducing the average time that goes into the formalities while starting a business and simplifying the process to start a business. As a Defence Minister, she is trying to speed up various acquisition projects, ensure transparency and build a roadmap for the armed forces capacity required in the coming years. She also aims at encouraging start-ups in the Defence sector.
One of the prominent women in Indian Parliament, Najma Heptulla is the current governor of Manipur and Jamia Milia Islamia’s first woman Chancellor. Formerly the Minister for Minority Affairs, Najma Heptulla has been a member of the Rajya Sabha five times and is best known for her role as Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha for 16 years. As a Minister of Minority Affairs, she focussed on the skill development programs for underprivileged students. Her ministry introduced the ‘NayaSavera’ scheme to provide free coaching to minority students to prepare for competitive examinations for professional courses and government jobs. Apart from being a politician, she is a prolific writer and has written many research papers and articles in Indian and Foreign Journals. She has also authored a book on AIDS titled, AIDS: Approaches to Prevention. Her writing focuses on women development and challenges.
Starting her Political career as the Deputy Mayor of the Municipal Corporation of Indore, Sumitra Mahajan is the current Lok Sabha Speaker and the longest serving woman member of Indian Parliament. An avid debater and questioner inside the House, Sumitra Mahajan has often been seen silencing Ministers with her calm and firm interventions. She was the Minister of State during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government and held different portfolios of human resources, communications, IT and natural gas. Earlier she has also worked as a member of the ‘Panel of Chairmen’ in the Lok Sabha. She holds an impeccable winning record in Indore, her own constituency and has never lost since she became an MP in 1989.
A postgraduate in history and a doctorate in philosophy, Sheila Dixit, has been three-time chief minister of Delhi. Her administrative skills were recognized by the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who nominated her as a representative for the Indian delegation of the United Nations Commission. In her political innings, she is credited with doing a lot of development work in New Delhi. She was instrumental in the addition of Delhi Metro to the public transport system in Delhi, and to building new roads and flyovers in Delhi. Although she received flak for the corruption during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and for other issues such as the crime against women in Delhi, she has nonetheless been a significant presence as a party veteran and organiser.
I hope we have many more such female voices resonating in the Indian Parliament in the coming years.
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