In the oath-taking ceremony held on the 30th of May, six women swore in as Cabinet Ministers. Here is a list of women in the council of ministers with their portfolios and a brief account of their political careers.
1. Nirmala Sitharaman
After serving as the Defence Minister in the last cabinet, Nirmala Sitharaman returns to the cabinet as the Finance Minister. She holds a graduate degree in economics from Ramaswami College in Tiruchirappalli and a post-graduate degree in the same from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She has also worked as a senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, London. A member of the Rajya Sabha since 2016, she started her political career with BJP in 2008. She was assigned as the party spokesperson in 2010. In 2014, she joined the finance ministry as the minister of state for Finance and Corporate Affairs. Sitharaman has also served as a Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce & Industry.
After serving as India’s first full-time female defence minister, she has now become the first full-time female finance minister.
She is only the second woman after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to fully take charge of the finance ministry. After serving as India’s first full-time female defence minister, she has now become the first full-time female finance minister. Before her, Indira Gandhi had held both of these portfolios. However, she did so along with her charge as the Prime Minister, and not in a full-fledged manner.
2. Harsimrat Kaur Badal
Harsimrat Kaur Badal returns to the cabinet, continuing as the Minister of Food Processing Industries. She is the only minister in the cabinet from the BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Harsimrat started her political career in 2009 by contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the Bathinda constituency. After her victory in the 2014 elections from the same constituency, she was appointed as the Minister of Food Processing Industry. In the 2019 elections, she got elected from Bathinda for the third time in a row. She defeated the Congress candidate Amrinder Singh Raja in a close margin of around 21000 votes.
3. Smriti Zubin Irani
Smriti Irani returns to the cabinet as the Minister of Women and Child Development and the Minister of Textiles. She had held many different portfolios in the previous cabinet– the HRD, Textiles, and Information and Broadcasting. She was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2011 and re-elected in 2017. She had first contested a Lok Sabha election in 2004 from Chandni Chowk in Delhi but lost to Congress’s Kapil Sibal. And though she had lost in the general elections of 2014 while contesting from Amethi, which happens to be Congress’s strong turf, she succeeded in bringing down the victory margin of Gandhi to only 1.07 lakh from 3.7 lakh in the previous election. Consequently, she was given the highly-sought Human Resource Development Ministry. During the last tenure, her sustained efforts in Amethi brought her an overwhelming victory in the 2019 polls.
4. Renuka Singh Saruta
Renuka Singh Saruta was assigned as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. She is a BJP MP from the Sarguja constituency in Chattisgarh, which happens to be one of two major tribal belts of Chhattisgarh, Bastar being the other. Saruta, who comes from the Gond community serves as the vice-president of the BJP’s ST cell. Previously, she has served as the minister of women and child development minister in the state cabinet of Odissa from 2003 to 2005. In Chattisgarh, she has served as the vice-chairperson of the Surguja Development Authority.
5. Deboshree Chowdhury
Deboshree Chowdhury was assigned as the Minister of State for the Ministry of Women and Child Development. She is the Member of Parliament from Raiganj parliamentary constituency of West Bengal. Chowdhury, who served as the secretary of BJP’s state unit in West Bengal, won the 2019 Lok Sabha election with 5.11 lakh votes. She defeated the Trinamool Congress candidate Agarwal Kanaialal with a margin of 60,574 votes. This is her first time as a Member of Parliament. In 2014, she had contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Burdwan-Durgapur seat in West Bengal but had lost to Trinamool Congress’s Mamtaz Sanghamita.
6. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti returns to the council as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Rural Development. In the previous council of ministers, she held the portfolio of Minister of State for Food Processing Industries. She returns to the parliament after winning from the Fatehpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh. She improved her victory margin from the last time in 2014 by winning over 70,000 votes. Before entering into the parliamentary polls, from 2012-14, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti was an MLA from the Hamirpur assembly constituency from the BJP.
In 2014, she sparked off a controversy by making a comment wherein she drew a distinction between “Ramzadon ki sarkaar” (government of those born of Ram) and “Haramzado ki sarkaar” (government of illegitimate children)”
In 2014, she sparked off a controversy by making a comment wherein she drew a distinction between “Ramzadon ki sarkaar” (government of those born of Ram) and “Haramzado ki sarkaar” (government of illegitimate children)” saying, “Apko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya haramzadon ki” (You have to decide whether you want a government of those born of Ram or of those born illegitimately). She later had expressed regret about the same in the Lok Sabha.
With only 6 women in the council of 58 members, only three are cabinet ministers. There are only three women Ministers of State and none with Independent Charge. The 2014 Council of Ministers had 7 women in it. The number was even lower in the earlier councils. Unfortunately, this is only one instance among many which tell us that equal representation of women in politics is still a long way ahead.