Nirmala Sitharaman Breaches Largely Male Bastion, Helms Finance Ministry


NEW DELHI — Breaching a largely male bastion, India’s new Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday became the first woman in 48 years since then prime minister Indira Gandhi to hold charge of the key ministry.

Sitharaman, who became the first full-time woman Defence minister in the first tenure of the BJP government, will also head the Corporate Affairs ministry in the new cabinet.

Indira Gandhi—who handled the Defence ministry in 1970-71—as prime minister had also held additional charge of the Finance ministry.

“Congratulations to @nsitharaman on her new role as Finance Minister. As the first woman to helm this crucial portfolio full time, she’s shattered the glass ceiling by all means,” Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba tweeted.

Sixty-year-old Sitharaman, a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, was at the helm of affairs when India conducted the Balakot air strike following the Pulwama attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group in which around 49 security personnel were killed.

Sitharaman took over as Defence minister in September 2017, taking over from Arun Jaitley who was holding the portfolio as an additional charge.

One of BJP’s chief spokespersons before its ascent to power, Sitharaman is an alumnus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the London School of Economics.

She worked as a senior manager (Research and Analysis) with PriceWaterhouse in London. During this time, she also briefly worked with the BBC World Service. On her return to India, she served as a deputy director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies at Hyderabad.

Sitharaman joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2008, and was made a member of the National Executive. She was nominated as party spokesperson in March 2010 and has been a full-time party worker since then.

She was inducted in the Union cabinet on May 26, 2014 as minister of state (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industry. 


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