'First women' all
In 1937 Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became minister of local self-government and public health - the first Indian woman ever to become a cabinet minister.
Described by President Ramaswami Venkataraman as a “luminous strand in the tapestry of India’s freedom struggle, in 1937 Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became minister of local self-government and public health - the first Indian woman ever to become a cabinet minister.
Shortly after India’s independence in 1947, she joined the foreign service and was appointed India’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union. In early 1949 she became ambassador to the United States. In September 1953 she was given the honor of being the first woman and the first Asian to be elected president of the UN General Assembly.
She has a special nostalgic association with Rajasthan. Not just because she became the first woman Governor of the state but also because she is the proud bahu of the desert state to adorn both the Raj Bhawan and Rashtrapati Bhawan. She is married to the son of the soil, academician Devi Singh Shekhawat from Chhoti Losal in Shekhawati.
The tall and charming Binita Thakur could not have asked for a better birthday present on her 40th birthday. She becomes the first woman cop from Rajasthan’s Rani Hadi Battalion to be picked up for the elite Special Protection Group (SPG), guarding the Prime Minister.
BSP supremo and India’s first dalit woman chief minister Mayawati has proved that it is possible for women to fight even without reservation and reach the top.
Mayawati, who became CM of Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time in 2007, has fought her political adversaries with extraordinary courage. Born in a lower middle class family, Mayawati, 53, was a teacher in Delhi when she was spotted by the BSP founder Kanshiram, who later declared her his political heir.
She won the hearts of people through her Parivartan Yatra as the first woman state BJP president. Later as the first woman chief minister of Rajasthan, she came with a whiff of change in the corridors of power but remained surrounded by controversies for her flamboyant lifestyle and somewhat autocratic functioning.
When in 1972 the then prime minister, the late Indira Gandhi, decided to send Nandini Satpathy, then her close associate and union minister for information and broadcasting, to Orissa to be the chief minister and head the Congress government in the eastern state, it raised a lot of eyebrows. For, many considered her to be inexperienced to head a state administration. However, the firebrand politico proved her critics wrong when she led the Congress to victory in the assembly polls one and a half years later to be the CM of the state again. She was the second woman chief minister of the country after Sucheta Kriplani.
A true pioneer
At a time when terms like ‘Women’s Lib’ or ‘women’s empowerment’ were unheard of, India's biggest state of Uttar Pradesh had the privilege of having the first woman chief minister in the country. Sucheta Kriplani, a veteran freedom fighter as well, donned the mantle of CM way back in 1963. She was the first elected chief minister in any Indian state.
Kriplani showed her determination and administrative skills in handling the first ever strike by the state employees. She retired from politics in 1971.
Rajinder Kaur Bhattal
Daughter of prominent freedom fighter from Punjab, Hira Singh Bhattal, became the first woman chief minister of Punjab on January 21, 1996. She remained the state CM for about a year.
When Congress returned to power in 2002, she was displaced by Capt Amarinder Singh for the top post but accepted the post of deputy chief minister. She is currently the leader of the opposition in Punjab assembly.
The only woman to have become chief minister of Goa, Shashikala Kakodkar virtually ‘inherited’ the position from her father Dayanand Bandodkar after his sudden death in August 1973.
Kakodkar was CM till 1979 when a split in the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, which championed the cause of the ‘bahujan samaj’ - a loose grouping of the non-brahmin classes - ensured her ouster.
She became the first Speaker of the Himachal Pradesh assmebly on March 11, 1985 and remained as presiding officer till March 1990. A keen sports lover, Stokes was also elected President of the Indian Women’s Hockey Association on four occasions. She is currently the leader of the Opposition in the Himachal Assembly.
She was married into the famous Stokes family, originally Americans who converted to Hinduism, which became instrumental in changing the Himachal economy by introducing delicious American variety of apples.
Syeda Anwara Taimur
The most prominent Muslim woman face of Congress in Assam. A lecturer in economics before she joined Congress in early 1960s, she became the Chief Minister of Assam on December 6, 1980. She is the only Muslim woman to occupy the CM’s office in the northeastern State so far. Her term as Chief Minister ended on June 30, 1981, when the state was put under President's Rule for six months. She is now a Rajya Sabha member.
Popular as V N Janaki, the leading lady of many Tamil films who starred opposite M G Ramachandran and later married him. When the thespian turned politician died in 1987, she succeeded him as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the leader of the AIADMK party (which later split into two factions). But her government lasted only 24 days. The Central Government under the late Rajiv Gandhi used Article 356 of the Constitution of India to dismiss her government.
She entered Jat politics of Rajasthan in the days when even girls’ education was a taboo. She won nine of the 12 elections she contested - eight from Congress. Her ninth victory on a BJP ticket made her the first woman Speaker of Rajasthan.
K S Nagarathnamma
First woman Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from March 1972-78, K S Nagarathnamma was elected to the lower house seven times. She became the Minister for Health and Family Welfare in 1990. Prior to her long political career, she held many important positions, including Vice-presidentship of Bharat Scouts and Guides, Mysore and Senate Member of Mysore University.
From Babri to Bhopal, it has been a momentous pilgrim’s progress for Uma Bharti, the fiery sanyasin who became the first woman chief minister of India’s largest state, Madhya Pradesh, after sending to political exile seasoned politician Digvijay Singh. Her formal education ended at 6th std, but she embarked upon a tour of 55 countries to broaden her horizon.
Three-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha became the first woman Leader of the Opposition of the State assembly in 1989. Like several politicians, Jayalalitha’s rule was marred by charges of corruption.
Inputs from Abha Sharma in Jaipur, Sanjay Pandey in Lucknow, Devika Sequeira in Panaji, S T Beuria in Bhubaneswar, Rajesh Deol in Chandigarh, Anirban Bhaumik in Delhi.