TomorrowMakers

Meet five powerful female politicians who hold an indisputable rank in Indian politics

Powerful women who transformed politics in India

They are extraordinary women. They lead from the front. And they have changed the face of the country.

While we continue to fight for equal rights for women, these leaders have challenged conventional thinking and taken the reins of the country in their hands. They have made much-needed reforms, uplifted the poor, helped farmers, created lakhs of jobs, and much more.

Here are five such inspiring women leaders:

Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi was only the second woman in the history of the free world to be elected as a head of state. The first and only woman Prime Minister of India was nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’. She was in power for 11 years across four terms till her assassination in 1984. 

Indira Gandhi displayed extraordinary statesmanship and political skill. She was at the helm of affairs during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, made several reforms to reduce poverty, introduced family planning measures, and nationalised many banks.

She has been listed as one of the most powerful women of the century.

Jayalalithaa

Lovingly called ‘Amma’, Jayalalithaa served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for 14 years across five terms. She was a prominent actress of the 1960s and joined the AIADMK in 1982. She became the youngest chief minister of the state in 1991 and held the post for multiple terms till her death in 2016.

During her tenure, she did much to uplift the poor. Farmers’ loans were waived, people could get medical treatment for a nominal fee under the master health checkup plan, free power was offered to residential and handloom units; and food, water, and salt were subsidised. 

She also increased freedom fighters’ pension, among other reforms. Under her leadership, Tamil Nadu attracted over US$20 billion in foreign investment.

Sushma Swaraj

The current Minister of External Affairs of India also has the distinction of being the youngest Indian cabinet minister when she started her political journey at the age of 25. She started off as a Supreme Court lawyer and since then has held various positions of political acclaim. She has been elected seven times as an MP and three times as an MLA.

Her work in offering humanitarian assistance to foreign nationals and promptness at resolving issues Indian nationals face abroad were instrumental in her being awarded the title of ‘best-loved politician’ by the Wall Street Journal.

Under her leadership, the government has engaged with 186 out of 192 members of the UN, increased the number of passport seva kendras from 77 to 227, and helped over 90,000 Indians in distress abroad in the last four years.

Mamta Banerjee

The first female Chief Minister of West Bengal is the founder and chairperson of the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC). She first got elected in 2011 after a landslide victory and has held the position since. She previously held coveted positions in the ministry, which include railways, HR, women and child development, and others.

Under her leadership, West Bengal has witnessed various progressive initiatives such as the economic upliftment of girls through scholarships and vocational training, an ‘employment bank’ to list and assist job-seekers in the state, fair price medicine shops that provide generic medicines and surgical material at less than 50% retail value, a cycle distribution scheme that gave wheels to 40 lakh school students, a food security system that provides subsided food items to almost 82% of the state’s residents, sanitation projects, infrastructure projects, and farmer welfare schemes.

Vasundhara Raje

This member of the royal Scindia family was the first female Chief Minister of Rajasthan (2003-2008), a post that she has retained since 2013. She has been elected as an MP five times and as an MLA four times. 

Under her leadership, Rajasthan created 15 lakh jobs by leveraging agriculture and allied investments. She has undertaken labour reforms to ease business and promote MSMEs in the state, introduced schemes that imparted financial and non-financial benefits directly to women, and undertook a massive infrastructure development with a proposed 2000 km network of roads in the state.

She has also introduced insurance-based cashless health schemes, provided quality meals at nominal prices to the needy, improved the public distribution system, and introduced rainwater harvesting schemes to make villages self-reliant.

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