Nirmala Sitharaman: India’s first full-time woman defence minister

Nirmala Sitharaman New Defence Minister

Nirmala Sitharaman New Defence Minister

Nirmala Sitharaman was on 3 September, 2017 chosen as the Defence Minister of India. With this, she becomes the first woman to assume this post on a full-time basis. Earlier, Indira Gandhi had also held this post who had taken temporary charge of the ministry on a couple of occasions – in 1975 and from 1980 to 82. In fact, her choice for this important post has raised several questions and as such a number of prominent BJP leaders as well as leading government officers have expressed their opinions on why she was chosen in the first place.

According to them, defence happens to be a complex job that needs precise and careful decision-making on issues that tend to be sensitive as well. She has previously served as an executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and is an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She has replaced Manohar Parrikar.

The biggest surprise in cabinet reshuffle

In fact, the selection of Sitharaman by Modi has been taken by many to be the biggest surprise in the recent spate of cabinet reshuffles. Already this round has seen the swearing in of nine new ministers and is seen by many as the elevation of the next generation of leaders in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Political analysts are also saying that with this decision the party is basically inducting several technocrats with an eye on the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2019. In fact, many say that choosing her for such an important post will give Modi plenty of political advantage as well considering her standing in Tamil Nadu and the other states in southern India. This can prove to be crucial in the 2019 elections as well.

The elevation of women power

In the last three governments led by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) women were always assigned ministries that were viewed in political parlance as soft power. As such, Sitharaman’s elevation to this post can be called a positive move. With her inclusion the present Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has two women – Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj, who is already there as the Union External Affairs Minister.

Political elevation for Sitharaman

At the personal and career level too this represents a big leap for Sitharaman. In becoming the defence minister she has leapfrogged a number of her senior colleagues in the cabinet. One of the main reasons that Sitharaman has been chosen to the post of the defence minister is because the opposition has alleged that BJP is neglecting this post. In a way this act of cabinet reshuffle has killed two birds with one stone – sending a political message and sprucing up the administrative system.

Some facts about Sitharaman

Sitharaman was born in Madurai, the temple city of Tamil Nadu, and with her recent elevation she will now be heading the third biggest defence force of the world. There are around 1.4 million people working in various capacities in the Indian armed forces. She has completed her graduation from Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Trichy, in economics. After her post graduation she did her M.Phil in economics and her special area of interest was Indo-European trade.