Born on 18 August 1959, Nirmala Sitharaman is an Indian politician serving as the current Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of India. She has been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 2014. Nirmala Sitharaman has formerly served as the Defense Minister of India. She became India’s second female defense minister and also the second female finance minister after Indira Gandhi and first full-time female Finance Minister. She has served as the Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs under the Ministry of Finance – Commerce and Industry with independent charge. Prior to that, she was appointed as a national spokesperson for the BJP.
Nirmala Sitharaman was born in Tamil Iyengar Brahmin family in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, to Savitri and Narayanan Sitharaman. Her father hailed from Musiri, Tiruchirappalli, while her maternal family had its roots in Thiruvenkadu, Thanjavur and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. Narayan Sitharaman was an employee of Indian Railways. She spent her childhood in different parts of the state. She had her schooling from Madras and Tiruchirappalli. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Tiruchirapalli (1980), Master of Arts degree in economics and M.Phil. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi (1984). Later, she enrolled for a Ph.D. in economics with Indo-Europe trade, but she has to move to London after her husband secured a scholarship in London School of Economics. This left her unable to complete the degree.
Nirmala Sitharaman joined the BJP in 2006 and was appointed as a spokesperson for the party in 2010. She was inducted into Narendra Modi’s cabinet as a junior minister after the 2014 Lok sabha election.
For the 2014 Lok Sabha elections campaign, Nirmala Sitharaman often held the fort in the BJP office as spokesperson, offering on record responses and off record analysis on how the campaign was unfolding. She would bring certain intensity to BJP’s media offensive that even opponents would pause to acknowledge.
She was one of the 12 candidates nominated by the BJP to contest the Rajya Sabha elections in 2016. She successfully contested from Karnataka. In 2017, she was appointed as Minister of Defence. She became only the second woman after Indira Gandhi to hold the post, but the first full time female defence minister.
After Lok sabha elections 2019, in the second term of Modi government, Nirmala Sitharaman was appointed as the finance and corporate affairs minister. She is the first full-fledge female finance minister of India. She presented her maiden budget in the Indian parliament in July 2019. Nirmala Sitharaman presented Union Budget 2020-21 on 1 Feb 2020.
The sincere application has been Sitharaman’s advantage in negotiating ministerial assignments and will be a key attribute in handling the finance ministry she takes over from Shri Arun Jaitley. Her selection as defense minister was a surprise and the move to finance even more so. But as she showed in her handling of the complex and vast defense ministry, the current task will not daunt her.
Her long schooling in politics, and the organizational grind in BJP, has been a learning experience. Having negotiated resentments within the party and vocal BJP opponents outside, Nirmala Sitharaman does not lose her nerve easily. This was well in evidence during her speech defending the Rafale deal in Parliament, when she took up Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s allegations point to point.
Her advocacy of the Rafale fighter contract brought out her ability to grasp the valid points of technical and financial negotiations without being drowned in jargon and presenting the argument in a manner that struck a chord with a common man. Her dealing with military brass and defense bureaucracy was similarly straightforward, even if her insistence on poring over files could at times be taxing.