Nirmala Sitharaman and Anurag Singh Thakur (Photo Source: PTI)
Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday created history again when she became the first full-time woman Finance Minister of India, and now will have to steer the country out of an imminent economic slowdown and address challenges like job creation, mounting bad loans and stimulating investment. Sitharaman in the Modi 1.0 government became the first full-time woman Defence Minister and in the second term she is now the first full-time woman Finance Minister. Prior to this, Indira Gandhi, as Prime Minister, held additional charge of Finance Ministry in 1970-71.
Sitharaman, 60, succeeds Arun Jaitley, who earlier this week wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he does not want to continue in ministerial position in the government due to health reasons. She joins the finance ministry at a time when the economy is facing challenges of slowing growth, dipping exports and mounting non-performing loans.
Sitharaman, considered to be a protege of Jaitley, held the charge of Minister of State for Finance and MoS independent charge of Commerce Ministry in 2014. Subsequently, in September 2017, she was appointed Defence Minister of India, the first woman to hold the portfolio. She drove to the official residence of her predecessor before taking charge in the ministry.
Minister of State in the finance ministry Anurag Thakur also assumed charge. Son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Anurag Thakur had won the Hamirpur constituency for the fourth time by defeating Ram Lal Thakur of the Congress by nearly four lakh votes, a record margin for the constituency.
44-year-old Thakur was also the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from May 2016 to February 2017. The Supreme Court had ordered his ouster as the BCCI president in January that year for trying to hinder the implementation of the Lodha reforms.
Sitharaman, a Rajya Sabha member, is an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University and London School of Economics. Sitharaman was born on August 18, 1959 in the temple town of Madurai, Tamil Nadu. She did her schooling and graduation in Economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College in Tiruchirapalli. She did her Masters in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Sitharaman served as an assistant to Economist in the Agricultural Engineers Association, UK in London. She subsequently worked as Senior Manager (Research and Analysis) with Price Waterhouse, London. During this time she also briefly worked with BBC World Service. On her return to India, she served as Deputy Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies at Hyderabad.
Sitharaman joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2008 and was made a member of the National Executive. She was nominated as party spokesperson in March 2010 and has been a full-time party worker since then.