Politics for long has been a bastion of males and it’s not very easy for any woman to make her presence felt in Indian political arena. In a country like India, it becomes even more difficult for a female politician as caste, creed and religion play decisive role in Indian politics.
It’s true that most of the successful women politicians in this country owe their success to their family’s political background; nevertheless, nobody can deny them the credit for putting in hard work and displaying requisite acumen for not only surviving but carving a separate niche for themselves.
Modern India has witnessed emergence of many such female politicians. Let’s have a look at 10 such outstanding female politicians of India who have broken the tradition myths and proved that a female can be as good a politician as a male.
Sonia Gandhi is the longest serving president of Congress party in its history of 127 years . She is also the chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
When Sonia entered Indian politics, nobody took her seriously as she had no prior experience of working in a political party. She was seen as a puppet who was being guided by self-serving coterie of Congress party. But to the credit of Sonia Gandhi, she led from the front and proved all her critics wrong. Her presence rejuvenated a demoralized Congress and the party stormed back to power in 2004 and repeated the performance in 2009.
She was born in Italy and her original name was Antonia Edvige Albina Maino. She met Rajiv Gandhi in England where she was studying English at the Bell Educational Trust’s language in the city of Cambridge.
At that time, Rajiv Gandhi was also enrolled in Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. In 1965, Sonia met Rajiv at a Greek restaurant where she worked as a part-time waitress.
After three years of courtship, Sonia and Rajiv got married in 1968. After marriage, Sonia shifted to India.
Sonia has been in controversy for a long timeover her citizenship. She was granted Indian citizenship in 1983 but her name figured in New Delhi’s voter list in 1980 in gross violation of Indian laws and it is said that she was also holding Italian passport at that time. The issue cropped up once again in 1983 when she acquired Indian citizenship in April 1983. Sonia’s name figured in 1983 Voter list for which the deadline was January 1983 while Sonia actually got Indian citizenship in April 1983.
2. Sushma Swaraj
Sushma Swaraj is the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha. She belongs to BJP and is a veteran of electoral politics. She has been Member of Parliament (MP) for six terms and MLA for three terms. She was also the Chief Minister of Delhi for a brief period.
She was a Member of the Haryana Legislative Assembly from 1977–82 and then from 1987–90. In July 1977, she was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister in the Janata Party Government headed by Mr. Devi Lal. She was Education Minister, Haryana in the BJP-Lok Dal Government of Mr.Devi Lal during 1987-90.
Born In Haryana, She was a Member of the Haryana Legislative Assembly from 1977–82 and then from 1987–90. In July 1977, she was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister in the Janata Party Government headed by Mr. Devi Lal. She was Education Minister, Haryana in the BJP-Lok Dal Government of Mr.Devi Lal during 1987-90. She was a cabinet minister when Vajpayee government was in power.
Sushma took on Sonia Gandhi in Bellary Lok Sabha constituency in 2004 when there was a wave against BJP in that region. Sushma offered a spirited fight and Sonia could win through a very small magin ogf around
Sheila Dikshit is Chief Minister of Delhi since 1998. She is close confidant of congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and has led the party to victory for three consecutive terms.
Her original name was Sheila Takeshita and she was born in Kapurthala of Punjab. She got married to an IAS officer late Shri Vinod Dikshit who belonged to UP.
She had also represented Kannauj Lok Sabha seat in parliament. She was a minister of state in Rajiv Gandhi government.
4. Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee is the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal. She has the distinction of dethroning 34 years old rule of left front government in West Bengal.
She was also the first woman Railway Minister of India.
She started her career as a member of Indian National Congress and played a long innings in that party.
As she was completely anti-CPM, she developed differences with parent party when Congress went soft on CPM.
After she got disillusioned with Congress, she launched her own Trinamool Congress (TMC) in 1997.
In 2011, she scored comprehensive and emphatic victory in West Bengal assembly elections and took over as 11th Chief Minister of India.
Jayalalitha Jayaram is the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and general secretary of AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). She is said to be a protégé of former Tamil Nadu CM M G Ramachandran.
Like MGR, Jayalalitha also joined politics after a successful stint in Tamil film industry.
She was born into a Tamil Iyengar family. In accordance with Iyengar custom, she was given two names, thus, her other name is Komalavalli.
She entered politics in 1982 and joined MGR’s political party AIADMK. In 1984, she became a Rajya Sabha MP and retained her seat till 1989.
In 1989, she became the leader of opposition in Tamil Nadu assembly and after two years she won a landslide victory in state assembly elections in alliance with Congress party.
She took over as the first elected female Chief Minister and the youngest ever Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 24 June 1991. It should be noted that Janaki Ramachandran, the wife of MGR, was technically the first female chief minister of Tamil Nadu following her husband’s death, but she was unelected.
Presently, she is serving her third term as Chief Minister. In April 2011, her party as part of 13-party alliance comprehensively won the 14th state assembly elections.
Mayawati is today the most powerful dalit leader in the country. She had been four times Chief Minister of India’s most populous state UP.
Mayawati was born on 15 January 1956 at Shrimati Sucheta Kriplani Hospital in New Delhi. Her father, Prabhu Das, was a post office employee at Badalpur, Gautam Buddha Nagar.
Mayawati belongs to the Jatav caste which is at the upper end of the scheduled castes.
After completeing her B.A. and B.Ed., Mayawati was working as school teacher in Inderpuri JJ Colony, Delhi and was preparing for IAS examination. Kanshi Ram visited her family home at that time in 1977 and convinced Mayawati to join politics instead of trying to get into IAS.
Kanshi Ram told Mayawati, “I can make you such a big leader one day that not one but a whole row of IAS officers will line up for your orders.”
Mayawati was the part of founding member of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which Kanshi Ram formed in 1984.
Mayawati was first elected to Parliament in 1989.
Both Kanshi Ram and Mayawati followed Buddhist tradition. Mayawati has not converted to Buddhism keeping an eye on caste factor in Indian politics.
At Kanshi Ram’s funeral in 2006, Mayawati said she will formally convert to Buddhism when the political conditions enable her to become Prime Minister of India.
7. Vasundhara Raje Scindia
Vasundhara Raje Scindia was the first woman Chief Minister of Rajasthan. She is one of the most powerful female politicians of the country.
She is daughter of Vijayaraje Scindia and Jivajirao Scindia, Maharaja of Gwalior, members of the prominent Scindia royal Maratha family.
Vasundhara Raje was baptized into politics by her illustrious mother Vijayraje Scindia who was a prominent leader of BJP. She was elected to the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly in 1985.
From 1989 onwards she won four consecutive elections to the Lok Sabha from Jhalawar, Rajasthan. Under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s premiership, Vasundhara Raje held independent charge of a number of portfolios.
She was Chief Minister of Rajasthan from 2003-08. She lost 2008 assembly elections and is presently the leader of opposition in Rajasthan assembly.
Vasundhara Raje got married to Hemant Singh, the ex-royal Dholpur family in 1972 but the couple got separated a year later. However, vasundhara has not hesitated in politically playing up her connections with Dholpur Jat family.
8. Ambika Soni
Ambika Soni is union cabinet minister in charge of information and broadcasting ministry. She is a Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab.
Ambika Soni becomes powerful on account of her closeness to the Gandhi family. She was inducted into the Congress party by Indira Gandhi when she engineered the split in 1969. She was an old family acquaintance of Gandhi family as her father who was DM of Amritsar during the partition and worked very closely with Jawahar Lal Nehru.
She was a favourite of Sanjay Gandhi and she was elected to parliament for the first time in 1976 as Rajya Sabha member.
She got married in 1961 to Uday Soni, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer.
9. Supriya Sule
Supriya Sule is a Lok Sabha MP and belongs to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). She is the daughter of powerful Maratha leader Sharad pawar. She belongs to the new generation of Indian politicians who are mod and are willing to move away from old political thoughts. It is widely believed that Supriya sule will succeed Sharad Pawar as the pivot of NCP.
10. Agatha Sangma
Agatha Sangma is the daughter of former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma. She is minister of state in union cabinet and is part of the youth brigade of India polity. Like her father , she is affiliated to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).