When I think about women in politics, Indira Gandhi was the only name that comes to my mind. If speaking about current situation Sonia Gandhi and Smriti Irani would be the names. After reading She, The Leader,by Nidhi Sharma I am shocked to know that so many stalwarts in Indian politics remain uncelebrated or they are celebrated by the regional politics. The names like Vasundhara Raje and Sucheta Kripalani were the names that were forgotten in the textbook pages. But now I know all the famous female politicians in Indian History up close.
She, The leader
Politics is still considered an unusual career choice for Indian women. This is perhaps why there are just eighty-one women members of parliament in the seventeenth Lok Sabha (2019–24), constituting only 15 per cent of the strength of the Lok Sabha today. Yet, though small in number, these leaders have brought a unique sensitivity to policy-making in India and continue to inspire younger women to become the next generation of political leaders. In She, the Leader: Women in Indian Politics, Nidhi Sharma profiles seventeen trailblazing women politicians who have fought social inequalities and patriarchal attitudes and created their own brand of politics in the national discourse.
Divided into four parts, the book begins with ‘The Pioneers’, which focuses on two exemplary women leaders of the twentieth century and their distinctly different political paths—Indira Gandhi, India’s first and only woman prime minister, and Sucheta Kriplani, India’s first woman chief minister. The second part, ‘The Inheritors’, reflects on the achievements of the women leaders who inherited their political careers from a male member of the family or a political benefactor, namely Sonia Gandhi, J. Jayalalithaa, Vasundhara Raje, Sheila Dikshit, and Mayawati.
This is followed by ‘The Lone Warriors’, featuring Pratibha Patil, Sushma Swaraj, Mamata Banerjee, Brinda Karat, and Ambika Soni—women who, though they had no political background, chose politics as their vocation and charted their own course. ‘The Future Leaders’, the final section, profiles up-and-coming women leaders to watch out for: Smriti Z. Irani, Supriya Sule, Kavitha Kalvakuntla, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, and Ampareen Lyngdoh. Almost all of these leaders have fought and won elections, nurtured constituencies, and created their own unique political legacy. Taken together, the profiles in She, the Leader show us the immense contribution women politicians have made to the Indian political scene.
Speaking of women in politics, the majority of women have risen to power under the shade of nepotism in politics. Even the most powerful woman leader in Indian politics Indira Gandhi was born into a politically powerful family and grew up amidst the social scenario. She had politics in her blood and guidance in her brain. However leaders like Smriti Irani, and Sushma Swaraj without any political legacy to celebrate have also risen to power with sheer determination and hardwork.
The author has rightfully segregated the leaders in terms of how they came to power. The readers get to see the snippets of their personal life as well as growth of professional life through the book. The author has surmised the lives of the readers in a respectful narrative still without losing the spicy details that the readers would want to know about. The book is quick and abstract and hence the readers could easily read through the lives of each leader. However a detailed insight about the leaders is lacking. I feel the concentration was more towards Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi about how their emotional turmoil has influenced their political advancement. However the author has remained unbiased in addressing each leaders irrespective of their political allegiance.
Women who fought their way up
The book shows up how women without any backup or legacy found their calling and successfully built their political career on the basis of pure merit. It is a pleasure to read about the real life heroines and their life. However, some of the leaders stories were rushed through and I would want to have a detailed account of their lives. The book targets the non fiction lovers who want to read the fighting spirit of famous female politicians in real life.