Priyanka joins ranks of Indian women leaders

As a run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Metrolife puts together a list of powerful women who have influenced Indian politics over the years

Priyanka Gandhi

The corridors of power in the national capital are all abuzz after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra announced her formal entry into politics. Congress president Rahul Gandhi appointed his sister as general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East, which comprises Lok Sabha seats of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Priyanka’s entry has been touted as a game changer in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Known as a natural leader who inherited her grandmother Indira Gandhi’s charisma, she had earlier confined herself to active decision making and occasional campaigning for the Congress.

However, representation for women in the Parliament is still lacking. With this move, Priyanka joins the select list of women politicians in India who have captured popular imagination with their strong personas, mass appeal and bold decisions. Here are a few leaders who dug their feet firmly (whether for good or bad) into the hitherto male-dominated field of politics.

Mamata Banerjee

Long way to go...
Adequate gender representation in parliament remains a distant dream for the millions of women in India. As per an Inter-Parliamentary Union study, in 2018, India ranks 148th among 193 countries in terms of female representation in the Parliament’s Lower House.

Mamata Banerjee
She became the state’s first female Chief Minister in 2011, ending the 34-year rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). She was re-elected in 2016.Since her father was a Congress activist, Mamata’s political journey started from there. In the 1984 general elections, she became one of the youngest members of the Lok Sabha and was made the General Secretary of the All India Youth Congress. Later she established the All India Trinamool Congress. From 1999 to 2001, she joined BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and served as India’s first female Union Cabinet Minister of Railways.                             


Her entry into politics was hailed as a ‘miracle of democracy’ for Mayawati Das was poor, a Dalit and a woman — not a lucky combination in India. However, she was noticed by Dalit politician Kanshi Ram for her talent in public speaking and Mayawati took her first step into politics in 1984 by joining his Bahujan Samaj Party.

In 1995, she created history by becoming Uttar Pradesh’s first Dalit chief minister. Since then, Mayawati has been re-elected four times; her last term ended in March 2012. She is viewed as an icon by millions of Dalits.

                                                               Sushma Swaraj

Sushma Swaraj

The official Twitter queen of the country, she has many records to her name — Janata Party’s youngest cabinet minister at the age of 25, Delhi’s first female Chief Minister (for three months) in 1998, seven-time MP and three-time MLA and second woman to hold the office of Minister of External Affairs of India (after Indira Gandhi)

Sushma’s tryst with politics at an early age, due to her father’s involvement in the RSS. The former Supreme Court lawyer has also been a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Jayaprakash Narayan’s Bihar movement against the then central government led by Indira Gandhi. Sushma is the Indian Parliament’s first and the only female MP honoured with the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award.

Smriti Irani
She moved on from a beauty contest finalist and actor in soap operas and movies to HRD and now textile minister. A firebrand leader of BJP, she started off as a young RSS functionary and went on to hold many posts in BJP like vice-president of the Maharashtra Youth Wing, executive member of the central committee of the BJP, National Secretary of BJP, All India President of BJP’s women wing etc.

From acting in over 140 movies to donning the mantle of the Chief Minister for a record five times, Jayalalithaa has had a tremendous influence in Tamil Nadu. She was the political heir to cultural icon MGR and took over the reins of his party AIADMK, after his death.             

For the masses, she was Amma, God-incarnate, who introduced subsidised food canteens, gave free laptops and mixers to thousands of households and focused on small scale industries and education. Her last few years were dogged by controversy but her death in 2016 saw an outpouring of grief and praise all over the country.

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Priyanka joins ranks of Indian women leaders


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