Najma Heptulla's journey from Cong to BJP cabinet: all you need to know

Najma Heptulla, set to be the Minister of Minority Affairs in Narendra Modi's cabinet, is probably one of the few candidates in the minority category to have secured a cabinet berth. Having worked with the Congress for a long period, she eventually switched loyalties to the BJP in 2004 after she had differences with party president Sonia Gandhi.

Joining the Indian National Congress in her early years, she eventually rose to become the general secretary of Congress in 1986 and handled the youth activities of AICC, says Wikipedia.

She has been the Rajya Sabha member on four occasions - 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998. She was the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha from January 1985-86, and 1988 to 2004. In 2000, she was appointed the President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) by the NDA. Additionally, she was elected President of Inter-Parliamentary Union and served office from 1999 to 2002.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) appointed her as its human development ambassador and she led the UN Commission on Status of Women in 1997.

Najma Heptulla. AFP

Najma Heptulla. AFP

During the NDA regime, Najma Heptulla got closer to the BJP which strained her ties with the Congress, especially with Sonia Gandhi.

Several media reports indicate that she faced personal humiliation from  Gandhi and had public fallout following that. In 2007, she was fielded against Hamid Ansari for the post of Vice-Presidency, which she lost by 223 votes.

Currently the vice-president of the BJP, she was the Rajya Sabha member from July 2004 to 2010. She was once again nominated by the BJP to the upper house from Madhya Pradesh in April 2012.

Born in Bhopal, on 13 April 1940, she holds a Masters’ Science Degree in Zoology and has done her Ph D in Cardiac Anatomy from the University of Denver. She is married to Akbarali A Heptulla and has three daughters. According a Hindu report,her husband,  Heptulla held a licence to import newsprint from Russia and was among those prominent members who helped establish the newspaper Patriot in the 1960s.

She has written extensively on a range of subjects like human social security, sustainable development, environment, reforms for women etc and has penned a book called "AIDS: Approaches to Prevention."

She is the grand-daughter of Indian freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and the second cousin of actor Aamir Khan. She was also the first Minister of Education of Independent India.


Updated Date: May 26, 2014 19:11 PM

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