Nirmala Sitharaman took oath as India's Defence Minister in the much-anticipated reshuffle-cum-expansion of his cabinet carried out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.
"Somebody who has come from a small town, grown in the party with all the support of the leadership, and if given such responsibility, it just makes you feel sometimes that cosmic grace is there. Otherwise it is impossible," she said after taking oath as India’s Defence Minister.
Reacting to the development, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who was temporarily managing the Defence ministry said, "It is great for the country, not just for women. It also sends a message globally."
Incidentally, Sitharaman (62) becomes the second woman in the history of India to hold the Defence portfolio after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She also becomes the second woman after External Affairs Ministry Sushma Swaraj to be part of the current Cabinet Committee on Security.
Before becoming India’s Defence Minister, the senior BJP leader was made the Minister-of-State of Commerce and Industry in the Narendra Modi government in 2014 even though she was not a member of the Rajya Sabha or the Lok Sabha.
She was later nominated a Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka in June, 2014. Ahead of the 2014 elections, she was one among six national spokespersons of the party.
She had joined the party in 2008 even though her in-laws were traditionally members of the Congress. Soon after joining the party, she was made a member of the National Executive Council. In 2010, she became a national spokesperson.
She was born in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district on August 18, 1959. Her father used to work in the Railways, while her mother was a homemaker.
She studied Economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College in Tiruchirapalli. She did her masters and later her PhD from JNU. Professionally, she started working for Agricultural Engineers Association as an assistant to Economist in London. Later she joined Price Waterhouse as a Senior Manager of Research and Analysis in the UK itself. She also founded the Prana School in Hyderabad.
She returned to India in 1991 as the Deputy Director of Centre of Public Policy Studies in Hyderabad. She was part of the National Commission of Women in 2003-2005. This is when she impressed Sushma Swaraj and joined the BJP.
She got married to Parakala Prabhakar in 1986 after finishing her masters. Prabhakar currently works as an Advisor to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and the couple has a daughter.