By Karthik Ganesh:
Politics is the science of running governmental affairs based on a ruling principle that shapes the identity of a nation. Politics in essence involves the art of forming, directing and administrating political units by a chosen set of ardent leaders who represent the interests of the majority of the people of the nation.
The origin of politics dates back to early 2100 B.C with the monarchical rule practiced in the lands of Sumeria shaping the concept of legislation. But since the conception of the ideology of governance, the fairer sex has not had an equitable representation at the helm of decision making. In spite of being the largest democracy in the world, women’s representation is only 9.1 percent in the Indian parliament.
In this male-dominated power game of politics, there are women leaders who have revolutionized the space of policymaking with their adroit and finesse. Listed below are the stories of five powerful female Indian politicians of all time who showed the world that women can be brilliant administrators.
– Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, an Indian diplomat and politician, heralded as one of the world’s leading women in public life in the 20th century, was the daughter of noted aristocratic nationalist leader Motilal Nehru. She was an active worker in the Indian nationalist movement and was imprisoned by the British three times on accounts of her struggle to free India. In 1937, she was elected to the provincial legislature of the United Provinces and was designated as the minister of local self-government and public health making her the first woman in India to hold a cabinet post. During the course of her work as a diplomat for independent India, she became the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1953. After holding office as the governor of Maharashtra from 1964-1968, she retired from active politics after relations between her and her niece Indira Gandhi became sour.
– Sonia Gandhi: the Italian born Indian politician and the longest serving President of the Indian National Congress belongs to the dominant Nehru-Gandhi family. A regular member of the most powerful and influential people lists conducted by Forbes and Time magazine, she has been pivotal in steering the decision-making process of the ruling government. In spite of holding no official post in the Indian government, she has been the instrumental force in ensuring the survival of the UPA-I and UPA-II despite the innumerable scams and poor administration carried out by the Congress party. Currently, she is at the heart of the largest democracy in the world. A really powerful woman to say the least.
– Sucheta Kriplani: She was an Indian freedom fighter and politician who holds the distinction of being the first female Chief Minister of an Indian state. An active worker for the Quit India movement, she worked in close association with Mahatma Gandhi at the time of partition. She was an integral part of the subcommittee that laid down the charter for the Indian Constitution. Known as a firm administrator, she held office of the Uttar Pradesh government as a Chief Minister and was widely enamoured for her sense of fairness and transparency.
– Indira Gandhi: Better known as the Iron Lady of India, she was the first woman Prime Minister of India who held office for three consecutive terms from 1966-1977. She was the only child of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and carried on his ideologies and his work on the industrial development front. She was vital in establishing closer relations with the Soviet Union as an ally which has been successful till date. With her at the helm, India formulated the Nuclear Program, the Green Revolution and went on to nationalize local banks. Under her tenure, India also went on a war with Pakistan which ended up with around ten million refugees fleeing to India and led to the establishment of the independent country of Bangladesh. During the period of Emergency imposed by her government to save her from being indicted on accounts of electoral malpractice, she went on to rule India as an autocratic leader during the period of 1975-1977, before she was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984 for her ordering of the Operation Blue Star.
– Mamta Banerjee: Didi from the lands of West Bengal rose to the fore in the last election when she and a movement she built from the grassroots, wrested control of her home state, ending three and a half decades of rigid Communist rule. Despite being labelled by critics as a shrieking street fighter, she has proved to be a consummate politician and a tough cookie to crack. Adhering to her incorruptible nature and riding on the principles of Maa, Maati, Manush, she has emerged as a populist woman leader who would play an integral role in taking the Indian democracy forward in the days to come.
The inspirational stories of these five female leaders have illustrated the necessity of having more women leaders at the helm in our government so as to ensure that we develop an equitable society where both the sexes have access to the same set of resources in order to progress in their lives.
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