Nirmala Sitharaman's first day in office was greeted by GDP growth rate slowing down to five-year low of 5.8 per cent in January-March quarter.
Nirmala Sitharaman Friday broke the glass ceiling again as she became the first full-time woman Finance Minister, who will present Modi 2.0 government’s maiden Budget that should look to take out the country from slowing growth, create jobs, attract investments and tackle banking sector woes. Sitharaman’s first day in office was greeted by GDP growth rate slowing down to five-year low of 5.8 per cent in January-March quarter, slower than even China, and unemployment rate rising to 45 year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18.
Before she took charge of the Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, she drove to the official residence of her predecessor Arun Jaitley, who had opted out of the second term of Modi government on health grounds. Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet congratulated Sitharaman on her new role as Finance Minister. “As the first woman to helm this crucial portfolio full time, she’s shattered the glass ceiling by all means”.
The two-time Rajya Sabha MP, Sitharaman was the full-time woman Defence Minister in the Modi government’s first term and in the second term she has been tasked with managing the Finance portfolio, which is considered the most important in the functioning of government after Home and Defence. Prior to this, Indira Gandhi, as Prime Minister, held additional charge of Finance Ministry in 1970-71.
Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, Sitharaman, 60, is considered to be a protege of Jaitley. She had handled the Minister of State for Finance and MoS (independent charge) of Commerce Ministry when the Modi government came to power in 2014. Subsequently, in September 2017, she was appointed as Defence Minister of India. Even then, her predecessor in the ministry was Jaitley, who was handling the portfolios of Finance, Defence and Corporate Affairs.
Indira Gandhi also held the additional charge of Defence portfolio in 1970s. 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. Born on August 18, 1959, in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Sitharaman is an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University and London School of Economics. 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.