Know Your Finance Minister: Nirmala Sitharaman

On 31st May 2019, Nirmala Sitharaman took oath as the India’s  Finance Minister thus becoming India’s first full-time female finance minister. She was also the defence minister for a short period of time, becoming the second woman after Indira Gandhi to hold that ministry. Nirmala Sitharaman was born on 18 August 1959 and is the senior most women Minister in BJP’s cabinet. In 2019, Forbes magazine ranked her as the 34th Most Powerful Women in the world. In this space we will be covering everything related to this dynamic lady who currently holds the command of Indian economy. 

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Personal Life

Nirmala Sitharaman was born on August 18, 1959 to a middle class family in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. Her mother’s name is Savitri and father, Narayanan Sitharaman worked in the Railways.

She completed her schooling from Madras and Tiruchirapalli. She obtained Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College, Tiruchirapalli, and Masters in Economics & MPhil in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University. 

She got married in 1986 to Parakala Prabhakar. She started her Ph.D in Indo-Europe trade but after her husband secured a scholarship in London School of Economics, she moved to London and was unable to complete the degree. In London, Sitharaman worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), and also had a brief stint at BBC World.

She returning to India in 1991 and joined the BJP in 2006.  Before joining the party, she was a member of the National Women Commission.

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Sitharaman and Political Career

Sitharaman started her political career in 2006 by joining BJP.  She became the spokesperson of BJP in 2010.  In 2014, she was inducted into Narendra Modi’s cabinet as a Junior Minister. Also, she was elected as a Rajya Sabha Member from Andhra Pradesh in 2014. 

She was one of the 12 candidates nominated by the BJP to contest the Rajya Sabha elections in 2016. She successfully contested her seat from Karnataka.

In September 2017, she became the first woman Defence Minister (with the exception, again, of Gandhi who had held the defence portfolio while being prime minister), after Manohar Parrikar who moved to take over the Chief Ministership of Goa.

Before being Defence Minister, Sitharaman was the Commerce and Industry Minister between May 2014 and September 2017.

On 31 May 2019, she was appointed the Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister. She presented her first maiden budget in the Indian parliament on 5 July 2019.

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Other less Known Facts

  • She is the first full fledged Women Finance Minister of India.
  • In 2019, she was ranked 34th in Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women in the World.
  • In the same year,  Nirmala Sitharaman broke away from long-standing traditions of holding colonial briefcase and opted for a red cloth bag or bahi katha to carry the Union Budget papers that shows the departure from westernization and promotion for indigenous materialShe constituted a new committee, ‘Naari tu Narayani,’ to ensure maximum allocation of funds for women’s welfare during budget presentation 2019.
  • She set up a task force headed by the Economic Affairs Secretary to prepare a roadmap for the “national infrastructure pipeline” which was unveiled recently, in accordance with the government’s vision to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
  • As a Defence Minister, she was significant in establishing industrial defence corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and other initiatives.

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