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Nirmala Sitharaman's Journey To Becoming India's First Full-Time Female Finance Minister


Nirmala Sitharaman was appointed as the Finance Minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet for his second consecutive term as the Prime Minister of India. She has created history by bagging another vital high-profile minister role in the country.


Sitharaman is the only other woman after Indira Gandhi to hold the position of defence minister and finance minister in India. However, she is the first woman to hold both the positions full-time. Gandhi held these roles as additional responsibility during her time as the prime minister.

Sitharaman has become an inspiration for women in India. In an interview with The Hindu after she became the defence minister of India, she said, "an appointment like this provides motivation to every woman in this country to aim high and realise that the only thing holding you back is your own desire to achieve."

Here are a few things you should know about Sitharaman as she prepares to present the Union Budget for the first time on 5 July:

Early days

Early days

She was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu to Savitri and Narayanan Sitharaman. Her father was employed with the Indian Railways which meant she was raised in various parts of the state.

After her schooling in Madras and Tiruchirappalli, she went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics at the Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Tiruchirapalli in 1980.



Sitharaman pursued her Master of Arts degree in economics and M.Phil. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in 1984, where she met her husband Parakala Prabhakar, who was from a pro-Congress family in Andhra Pradesh. They have a daughter together.

She also has a PhD in the Indo-European textile trade within the GATT framework.



She moved to London after her husband secured a scholarship at the London School of Economics.

During her stay, she worked as a salesperson at Habitat, a home décor store and then went on to become an assistant to Economist in the Agricultural Engineers Association.

She also served as a Senior Manager (R&D) for Price Waterhouse and briefly at the BBC World Service.

She returned to India in 1991 and moved to Hyderabad along with her husband for the birth of her daughter.

Political Career

Political Career

She served as a member of the National Commission for Women from 2003 to 2005.

She was associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2006 and was enlisted as one of the six party spokespersons in March 2010 during Nitin Gadkari's tenure as BJP president.

In May 2014, Sitharaman was sworn in as Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industry as part of Narendra Modi's cabinet during his first term as a PM.

In September 2017, she was appointed as the 33rd Defence Minister of India. After the attack on CRPF jawans in February 2019, she became the face of anti-terror operations in India. She oversaw the Indian Airforce strike on terror camps in Pakistan, a few days after the attack.

Story first published: Saturday, June 29, 2019, 16:14 [IST]
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