The need for equal and just representation of women in Indian politics has created a longstanding journey towards advocacy within the country. Time and time again, there have been brave, powerful women who have fought the gender gap and paved an inspiring path for more women to enter politics. As India gears up for its next general election, let’s take a look at ten boundary-breaking women who are the most influential female political figures in India.
1. Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi had the longest tenure as the president of Congress. A member of the prestigious lineage of Nehru-Gandhi family, this fierce female leader entered politics in 1998. In 2006, she formed the United Progressive Alliance. She retired as the president of Congress in 2017, handing the onus to her son Rahul Gandhi.
P.V. Narasimha Rao described Mayawati’s rise to politics as a “miracle of democracy,” made even more miraculous by her need to fight harder as a woman in the field. Hailing from humble beginnings, Mayawati had no connection to politics. However, Dalit Politician Kanshi Ram persuaded her to enter the filed. She shot to fame with her historic win as the first Dalit Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1995.
3. Pratibha Patil
In 1962, Pratibha Patil joined politics as the member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Her affable terms with the Gandhi family enabled her to contest for the role of the president in 2007. She served as the 12th President of India from 2007 to 2012, and has been quite outspoken in her advocacy for female empowerment.
4. Sheila Dikshit
Sheila Dikshit’s father-in-law was Uma Shankar Dikshit who was Union Minister as well as a close ally to the Nehru-Gandhi family. It was while she briefly worked with her father that Indira Gandhi saw Sheila’s potential and passion for politics. Eventually, she went on to become Delhi’s longest serving Chief Minister. This politician has reprimanded society for not sufficiently safeguarding the freedom and dignity of women in India.
5. Mamata Banerjee
Popularly known as ‘Didi’, Banerjee’s started her political career quite early on. In 1997, she established the Trinamool Congress Party, making it the most powerful opposition in Bengal. In 2011, she became the first female Chief Minister of West Bengal, ending the 34-year rule of the Communist party of India (Marxist). Mamata recently expressed her pride in the Trinamool Congress for housing 35% female MPs, with 50% seats reserved in local bodies for women.
6. Vasundhara Raje Scindia
This she-warrior’s parents were politicians, so maybe would call it destiny for her to end up in the same field. She served as the first female Chief Minister of Rajasthan from 2013 to 2018. Vasundhara has achieved the title of ‘Chief Minister of the Year’ in 2018 for her outstanding contribution to the field of IT and e-governance. Women in STEM: first India, then world domination!
7. Sushma Swaraj
Sushma Swaraj was involved in politics since her graduation days. She became the cabinet minister of the Janata Party only at the age of 25, and was the second woman to hold office after Indira Ghandi. She shot to fame by becoming the first female Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998; however, she served for only three months. At present, she is the Union Minister for External affairs. She’s also suggested to men in society that they take on more housework to fight gender injustice. Here’s to #teamsushma and a cleaner house!
8. Supriya Sule
Sule is regarded as one of the emerging, revolutionary voices of India’s new generation of politicians. A member of the Rajya Sabha, Supriya Sule is the daughter of Sharad Pawar – the president of the Nationalist Congress Party. She has widely acclaimed for her activism and social contribution. In 2011, she successfully led a campaign against female foeticide. She also formed a wing known as the Rashtravadi Yuvati Congress to give a platform for young ladies in politics.
9. Ambika Soni
Born to an ICS officer, Shri Nakul Sen, Ambika Soni started her career in politics with Congress. As a minister, she has served various positions: Tourism, Culture, and Information & Broadcasting. She is credited with the success of the “Incredible India” campaign that boosted tourism in India. This charismatic leader refers to herself as an activist rather than a politician.
10. Brinda Karat
Brinda Karat gave up a career in the air forces to join the controversial world of politics. She actively started practicing politics during her academic stint in the Calcutta University. In 2005, she was elected to be the representative of CPI(M) in Rajya Sabha. The same year, she became the first female member of the Politburo of the CPI(M), which is the most powerful decision-making body of the party.