Women Chief Ministers of India: Leading from the front
Mehboob Mufti makes history as the first woman Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir today. There have been 16 women chief ministers in Independent India. A look back at some of the trail-blazers from across the country, two of whom are up for re-election this political season.
1. Mehbooba Mufti, Jammu & Kashmir
The PDP chief took over the mantle of leadership of the state in tragic circumstances, with Mufti Mohammed Sayeed passing away after a prolonged illness and multiple organ failure. She has proved her political smarts time and again since launching her political career in the mid-90s, including this latest period of hard-ball negotiation with allies the BJP. The 3 month deadlock ended after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To have its first woman chief minister, this is a big milestone for the state.
2. Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has always been considered a firebrand. She made a mega comeback to power in state elections in May 2016 on the back of her efforts for women empowerment in the state with schemes like Kanyashree. Under her leadership, the TMC had won a landslide victory back in 2011, overturning three decades of Left rule in the state.
But as the state votes again this month, there are questions about how the party will do against a combined opposition of the Left and the Congress. Phase 1 of polling has begun in West Bengal today.
‘Didi’ may also be a writer and artist, but she is also a politically savvy survivor, having weathered quite a few storms since taking over, including the recent flyover collapse in Kolkata (which she has blamed the previous government for), the “Park Street rape case”, which the CM called a political conspiracy, and left wing extremism.
3. Vasundhara Raje, Rajasthan
The BJP’s Vasundhara Raje has been Chief Minister of Rajasthan since 2013. It is her second stint leading the state, having served as CM also from 2003-2008. She prides herself on working for development and for women in the state, is considered very popular with women and the young, and has spent considerable time focusing on inviting investment to Rajasthan.
She has in the past played down in-fighting within the Rajasthan faction of her party, also fending off attacks due to her friendship with former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
Having survived all that, she shows she’s still an incredibly potent political force, with a lot left to offer. She presented the state budget recently and is being credited with the state leaving the BIMARU category though there are still plentiful economic challenges.
4. J Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu
AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa has proved herself time and again as a political force. Critcised by outsiders for the cult of personality that prevails in her party (with political leaders prostrating themselves regularly in front of her), she is nevertheless a 6-time Chief Minister. Fondly called Amma, many of the social schemes like the Amma Canteens, which are run by women (and serve the 1 rupee Amma idli) have gained popularity and traction even outside the state, with other governments looking to emulate their success.
Jayalalithaa overcame a huge legal hurdle when the Karnataka High Court dropped charges in a disproportionate assets case and corruption case against her in 2015. (She had to vacate her post as CM when a lower court found her guilty.) While the DMK and AIADMK traditionally trade positions each election, she returned to power going strength to strength in election in May 2016.
5. Anandiben Patel, Gujarat
She is the first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat. She is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 1987. Patel is often described as Gujarat’s “Iron Lady”. Observers of her political career claims she has evolved into an effective administrator and is being credited for for improving the state’s education system.
She worked with Gujarat’s former chief minister Keshubhai Patel and was made minister of two departments – education and women and child welfare. After Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat came to power, she held departments like revenue, roads and buildings and even urban housing