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Women Chief Ministers in India

Posted by Admin on July 7, 2014 | Comment

When Narendra Modi handed over the baton of chief ministership to Anandiben Patel, Gujarat got its first woman chief minister. In a landmark decision, she announced 33 percent reservation for women in the state police force. Gujarat could be a classic example of gender equity and greater participation of women in the political process, but this is certainly not a pan-India phenomenon.

Women Chief Ministers in IndiaIt might come as a startling revelation for those who don’t know that India has seen only 15 women chief ministers since Independence with Mamata Banerjee and Anandiben Patel being the latest inclusions in the list. Most women chief ministers belonged to the national parties with five from Indian National Congress (INC) and four from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Women Chief Ministers in India till 1980s

As the first woman chief Minister of independent India, Sucheta Kripalani did make an impressive debut in 1963. For good four years, the freedom fighter headed one of the most difficult states to administer – Uttar Pradesh. Five years after Kripalini became the chief Minister, Nandini Satpathy became the Chief Minister of Orissa twice in 1972 and 1974; her tenure was widely appreciated for good governance.

Going further, the 1980s saw only five women chief ministers; the other three being Shashikala Kakodkar from Goa, Syeda Anwara Taimur from Assam and Janaki Ramachandran from Tamil Nadu. While Shashikala remained at the helm of affairs for almost six years, Syeda couldn’t avert the imposition of President’s rule in her state and had to step down in six months. The shortest tenure (only 23 days) was of Janaki’s.

Women Chief Ministers in India from 1990s

One of the names that figure prominently in this list is Sheila Dikshit. She held the longest tenure as woman CM in India. From 1998 to 2013, she led the Congress through three consecutive electoral wins in Delhi. That, however, doesn’t offset the fact that she invited widespread criticism for apparent lawlessness in the capital city.

Another personality who carried forward the glory of women’s empowerment is J. Jayalalithaa. Her total tenure as Tamil Nadu CM spans over 12 years, although it has been marked by intermittent entries and exits. She recently proved her political prowess and popularity again when the national parties such as Congress and BJP failed to stop her party AIADMK’s overwhelming victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.

Two other women Chief Ministers – Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee have been much discussed and decried. While the former had several stints as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, the latter gained the center-stage for the first time by scripting the biggest defeat for the Left Front in West Bengal.

BJP’ firebrand leader Uma Bharti and Sushma Swaraj, the current Union Minister for External Affairs, also occupied the CM posts of Madhya Pradesh and Delhi respectively, though for a brief period. Similarly, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the only woman to hold the office of Chief Minister in Punjab, had a brief tenure (1996-1997).

Vasundhara Raje who held the Rajasthan CM’s post from 2003 to 2008, commands great clout in state politics. No wonder she staged a comeback as CM in 2013.

Though a traditional housewife with no interest and any prior experience in politics, Rabri Devi too deserves mention for serving three terms as the Chief Minister of Bihar between 1997 and 2005.

Women CMs in India – 2014

In a rare repeat of the political phenomenon (first time it happened in 2011), four Indian state are presently run by women chief ministers. From Jayalalithaa (South), Mamata (East) Vasundhara Raje (North West) to Anandiben Patel in (West), women have made a mark for themselves in the political landscape across regions. What has worked to the advantage of these women chief ministers is their aggressive and dynamic political approach, indefatigable spirits and the projection of themselves as viable alternatives to run the governments in their respective states. With these politically crucial states being administered by women chief ministers, it can be said for sure that women have proved themselves with aplomb.