New Delhi: One of the most prominent and senior-most woman leader of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), Sushma Swaraj was not among the three women leaders who took oath as Cabinet ministers to be part of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's second consecutive term, on Thursday.
A senior BJP leader, Swaraj had been a seven-time Member of Parliament (MP) and a three time MLA, who was appointed as the Minister of External Affairs in 2014. She was present in the audience, seen sitting alongside other senior BJP leaders.
The 2014 NDA government had six women ministers in the Cabinet. However, this year, the total number of women ministers in the Union Cabinet fell to three, excluding ministers of state.
A two-time member of the Rajya Sabha since 2016, Nirmala Sitharaman was the first woman MP to take oath as Cabinet minister. Sitharaman had become the second woman after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to hold the defence portfolio in September 2017, and was most likely to continue as the minister of defence in the second term as well.
Another prominent woman leader, Smriti Zubin Irani, who had emerged as a leading political fighter in the party after defeating Congress president Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, was welcomed with a huge applause from the audience, as she walked on the stage to take oath.
Irani earlier held portfolios in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and Human Resources Development (HRD).
Maintaining its tradition to keep important allies in key positions in the Cabinet, PM Modi also retained Punjab MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP’s alliance partner in Punjab. With her impressive stint as the winning MP from Punjab, Badal was allotted the portfolio of the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries in 2014.
The other two women ministers, including Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, who was the Minister of Women and Child Development, and Uma Bharti, the Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, were not included in the new Cabinet.
However, it is significant to note that the newly elected 17th Lok Sabha has the highest representation of women at 14.3%, which includes as many as 78 women MPs, higher than 62 in 2014.
A total of 716 women candidates had contested the Lok Sabha elections this year, out of which 78 won the elections in the results declared on May 23.
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