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Women account for 25 per cent of India’s new cabinet

May 27, 2014

Women’s strong leadership skills have been recognized with seven Cabinet ministries being allocated to women under the new government.

New Delhi: Women’s participation in politics in India has received a major boost with the new government giving seven of its 45 ministerial berths to women.

Six women were sworn-in as Cabinet ministers on Monday, thus making up 25% of the Modi cabinet. These women include Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, Smriti Irani, Maneka Gandhi, Najma Heptullah and Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Sushma Swaraj, who is likely to get charge of the Ministry of External Affairs, will also be the first woman to become a member of the all powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) since late Indira Gandhi. Besides these Cabinet ranks, another woman, Nirmala Sitharaman, an articulate BJP spokesperson, was also made Minister of State with Independent Charge.

With this distribution of ministries, NDA has moved many steps ahead of the previous UPA government which had only two women in a 28-member cabinet.  

Another interesting fact is that both the eldest and the youngest members of the Cabinet are women, with Heptullah being the eldest at 74 and Irani the youngest at 38.

According to prominent news sources, the number of women ministers are likely to increase as Modi is expected to expand his Cabinet. This might further increase the number of women in the 16th Lok Sabha which already has the highest number of women members – 61 – in the history of Lok Sabha.

Most of these women ministers are well-established and seasoned politicians who have managed to secure a place in the Cabinet in the face of tough competition from male stalwarts of the ruling party, the BJP.

Swaraj has been elected seven times as MP and three times as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. She also has the distinction of becoming the youngest cabinet minister at 25 in Haryana.

Smriti Irani too has come a long way from being a Miss India aspirant and an overnight star of the hit television show, 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi'. She joined BJP in 2003, contested the 2004 Lok Sabha poll unsuccessfully from Chandni Chowk against Kapil Sibal, and became the vice-president of party's youth wing in Maharashtra before being named the national secretary of BJP in 2010.

Her valiant campaign against Rahul, despite her last-minute selection as the BJP candidate from Amethi, is said to have ensured her the meaty HRD portfolio. 

In a country where women face discrimination in almost every sphere of social and political life, a strong representation of women in the Cabinet has the potential to considerably improve the overall position of women in the country.

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