‘She, The Leader: Women in Indian Politics’ review: A fitting ode to women politicians

For Indian women, 2023 was a momentous year. After languishing in the halls of Parliament for decades, the Women’s Reservation Bill finally cleared the lower house on September 18, 2023. Hailed as a historic move, the act grants reservation to women on one-third of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies with near unanimity.

To gauge the bill’s significance, one needs to construe the fact that the current Lok Sabha has only 82 women members, which ironically is the highest ever. One can, however, draw solace from the fact that this is a three-fold increase in women’s representation in 67 years of India’s parliamentary election history.

In such a discouraging scenario, celebrating and honouring the women who graced our political scene is imperative, for how they fought inequalities and patriarchal politics to make their mark.

Nidhi Sharma’s She, The Leader: Women in Indian Politics does exactly that. Through the profiles of 17 women politicians who have been groundbreakers, the book pays an ode to ‘Nari Shakti’.

In four sections – Part- I: The Pioneers, Part- II: The Inheritors, Part III: The Lone Warriors, and Part- IV: The Future Leaders – Sharma traces the journey of women leaders who, according to her, “create their own brand of politics in the national discourse”.

‘Part- I: The Pioneers’ focuses on the first woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the first female Chief Minister of an Indian state, Sucheta Kripalani, a deserving start to the book. It documents their entry into politics, eventful reign and behemoth political legacy they left behind for independent India.

‘Part- II: The Inheritors’ has Sonia Gandhi, J. Jayalalithaa, Vasundhara Raje, Sheila Dikshit, and Mayawati gracing the pages, all sharing the common thread of inheriting their political careers from a male member of the family or a political benefactor.

‘Part III: The Lone Warriors’ is about Pratibha Patil, Sushma Swaraj, Mamata Banerjee, Brinda Karat, and Ambika Soni while ‘Part- IV: The Future Leaders’ follows the journey of Smriti Z. Irani, Supriya Sule, Kavitha Kalvakuntla, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, and Ampareen Lyngdoh.

The book documents the lives of these leaders, who managed to break the ceiling while battling the everyday challenges of home and family, to reshape Indian politics. It also doubles up as a motivational guide which inspires women and documents the convoluted Indian political sphere.

She, The Leader: Women in Indian Politics

By Nidhi Sharma

Published by Aleph Book Company

Price: INR 723

Pages: 392