Six most powerful Indian women politicians of all times

India may not be the most liberated of all countries when it comes to the position of women in its deeply traditional and patriarchal society but that hasn’t stopped a few remarkable women from making their mark in Indian politics.


. Indira Gandhi

The woman: Indira Gandhi (nee Priyadarshini), daughter of India’s first Prime Minister, J. L. Nehru

The party: Indian National Congress

Her position: Key figure in the Indian National Congress, Third Prime Minister of India, only woman Prime Minister of India to date, second-longest-serving PM of India (served two terms 1966-1977, 1980-1984)

Her nickname: Durga (the feminine divine), Mother India, The Iron Lady, Empress of India

Dubbed “Woman of the Millennium” in a 1999 BBC poll and voted “Greatest Indian Prime Minister” in a 2001 India Today poll, Indira Gandhi played a key role in India’s emergence as a prominent political, economic, and military power in South East Asia.

. Sonia Gandhi

The woman: Born Antonia Edvige Albina Maino; married Rajeev Gandhi in 1968; entered politics in the late 1990s.

The party: Indian National Congress

Her position: Longest serving Congress president, Chairperson of the UPA

Her Nickname: Madam

Italian born Sonia Gandhi entered politics reluctantly roughly half a decade after the assassination of her husband. She was supposed to be a puppet president of the Congress but through her sheer determination, good luck and the loyalty of the Congress party for the Gandhi family, she has managed to lead the Congress and the UPA from the front as they stormed back into power in 2004 and retained their position in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.


. Mamata Banerjee

The woman: The epitome of the politically charged Bengali youth back in the day, involved with politics since school

The party: Indian National Congress (1970s-1997), All India Trinamool Congress (1997-current), NDA (1999-2001; 2004-06), UPA (2001-2004; 2009-current)

Her position: First woman Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development, Youth Affairs and Sports and Human Resources Development (1991-93), former General-Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress, former General Secretary of Mahila Congress (I), first woman Union Railway Minister-served two terms as (1999-2000;2009-current), Union Coal and Mines minister (January-May 2004), first woman CM of West Bengal

Her nickname: Didi (sister)

Mamata Banerjee is easily the most volatile woman in Indian politics to date. Her tantrums are second only to her political will. She has allied with both the UPA and the NDA though her proudest accomplishment is defeating the 34 year old left front rule in West Bengal.

. Mayawati

The woman: Born into a low-middle class dalit family; a protégée of Lt. Kanshi Ram

The party: Bahujan Samaj Party

Her position: founding member of the BSP, elected to Parliament in 1989, served four terms as the CM of U.P., most powerful dalit leader in the country, current Rajya Sabha member

Her nickname: Behanji (sister)

Born to a post office employee father in one of the poorest districts in the country, Mayawati made her way up in life getting a B.A. and B.Ed. degree and working as a school teacher in the late 1970s. While preparing to join the elite civil service of India, she met Kanshi Ram and became a founding member of the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1984. Having overcome terrible odds through her birth in a marginalized social class, Mayawati championed the cause of the scheduled and backwards castes and religious minorities in Indian politics.


. Sheila Dixit

The woman: Sheila dixit (nee Takeshita),

The party: Indian National Congress

Her position: Delegate to the U.N. Commission on Status of Women (1984–89), Secretary of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Minister of State PMO (1986–1989), MP (1984–89), CM of Delhi since 1998 (three consecutive terms)

Her nickname: none

Sheila Dixit is the rock that has held the Congress party steady for nearly 15 years now. The massive developments in New Delhi and the NCR region are largely attributed to her. She has received several recognitions for her political services including 2009 NDTV Politician of the Year, Best Chief Minister of India for 2008 by Journalist Association of India and was even shortlisted for the World Mayor award in 2008.


. Jayalalitha

The woman: Jayalalitha Jayaram, former movie star and soft-spoken yet stubborn politician

The party: AIADMK

Her position: former Kannada, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil film star, youngest ever CM of Tamil Nadu, first elected female CM of Tamil Nadu, second ever female CM of Tamil Nadu, Rajya Sabha MP (1984-1989), served four terms as CM of Tamil Nadu ( 1991-1996, May-September 2001, 2002-2006, May 2011-current), general secretary AIADMK.

Her nickname: Amma (mother), Puratchi Thalaivi (Revolutionary Leader)

Having been a successful film star in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jayalalitha entered politics in 1982 and riding high on the back of a landslide victory in the state assembly elections, made her way in the Rajya Sabha in 1984. In 1991, she first took over the office of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and has since served four terms.

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