20 Power Women Who Have Led Indian Politics

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Power is a dangerous thing. It comes with a price, a heavier one if you are a woman leader. And when the country you live is a developing one like India, the task is even more arduous.

Entrepreneur India

Through the history of India, great women leaders have been elected for their grit and determination to bring a change the country wished to see. Many have witnessed the ire of public anger and many have worked endlessly for the upliftment of the third fastest growing country in the world.

India’s first Prime Minister-elect Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi has till date been the first and the only woman Prime Minister to lead the nation. Internationally know as a statesman, Gandhi was an authoritarian who led India for 18 years before being assassinated.

Vijaya Raje Scindia popularly known as the Rajmata of Gwalior, was a prominent Indian political in the days of the British Raj. From royalty to becoming a politician, she was repeatedly elected to both houses of the Indian parliament. She represented the Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Nandini Satpathy was an Indian politician and author who served as the Chief Minister of Odisha from June 1972 to December 1976. Satpathy's uncle Bhagavati Charan Panigrahi founded the Odisha branch of the Communist Party of India.

Sucheta Kriplani was the first woman Chief Minister of India. She was an Indian freedom fighter and politician who served the head of the Uttar Pradesh government from 1963 to 1967.

Following Indira Gandhi’s suit has been daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi who is currently the leader of Opposition in the Lower House or Lok Sabha. The assassination of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi in 1991 paved the Italian-born Indian into politics. She has since then served as the elected President of the Indian National Congress party.

The only woman to hold the Indian President’s office is Pratibha Devisingh Patil who served as the 12th President of India from 2007 to 2012. A member of the Indian National Congress, Patil served as the Governor of Rajasthan from 2004 to 2007.

Vasundhara Raje Scindia appointed as the first female Chief Minister of Rajasthan has served the state for two stints; one as Chief Minister of Rajasthan from 2003 to 2008 and second the current one that started in 2013.

A former model, television actress and producer Smriti Zubin Irani is currently the Textile Minister of the Government of India and has been a being nominated to the Upper House or Rajya Sabha from the state of Gujarat.

Mamata Banerjee has served as the first female Chief Minister of West Bengal since 2011. She is also the founder of the Bengal’s political party Trinamool Congress.

Former Supreme Court lawyer and the current Minister of External Affairs of India Sushma Swaraj took office in 2014. Swaraj is the second woman to be India's Minister of External Affairs, after Indira Gandhi. At the age of 25, she became the youngest cabinet minister of Haryana. She has since then been elected seven times as a Member of Parliament and three times as a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

Mayawati is an Indian politician who served four terms as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. She is the national president of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). She has been famous for her work towards improving the lives of Bahujans or Dalits, Other Backward Classes, and religious minorities.

Actor turned politician Jayalalithaa Jayaraman has served five terms as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. She was the general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and was popularly known as Amma.

Sheila Dikshit is an Indian politician who was the Chief Minister of Delhi from 1998 to 2013. Having served the Indian National Congress, Dikshit led the Congress to three consecutive electoral victories in the national capital.

Brinda Karat is a communist politician from India, elected to the Rajya Sabha as a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M). In 2005, she became the first woman member of the CPI(M).

Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed is the first woman to hold the office of Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. She is current serving as the CM since April 2016. Mehbooba is India’s second Muslim woman chief minister after Syeda Anwara Taimur of Assam.

Rabri Devi is an Indian politician from the state of Bihar. She has served three terms as the Chief Minister of Bihar, as a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal political party, between 1997 and 2005. She is a Member of the Legislative Council for Bihar Vidhan Parishad. 

Uma Bharti is an Indian politician and cabinet minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation in the Union Government of India. Bharati has held state-level and cabinet-level portfolios in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Tourism, Youth Affairs & Sports, and Coal & Mines during the second as well as third ministry of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, actor turned politician is a Padma Shri award winner. Bachchan was first elected in 2004 as a Samajwadi Party member of parliament, representing Rajya Sabha. She was re-elected in 2012.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi is the Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of PM Narendra Modi. She is an animal rights activist, author and environmentalist. She has served as a minister in four governments.

Chhavi Rajawat is currently serving as the sarpanch of a Rajasthani village called Soda. Rajawat  has been reported to be the youngest person to hold the office of sarpanch.