Nirmala Sitharaman, a JNU alumni and former Minister of State (Independent Charge) Commerce, was appointed as the new Defence Minister on 3 September 2017, thus gaining entry into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Union Cabinet.
The trained economist took the charge of the key ministry from Arun Jaitley who had been handling the portfolio after Manohar Parrikar quit to become Goa's chief minister.
With the development, Sitharaman became India's first full-time Defence Minister and second all-time one, after Indira Gandhi who had held the portfolio twice, first from 1- 21 December in 1975 and the second time from 14 January 1980 to 15 January 1982.
So, India has a woman at the helm of the key ministry, 35 years after the last one.
• Born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu in 1959, Sitharaman is an economics major from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
• She formerly served as a Senior Manager, Research and Analysis in one of the big four, PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC), London and also briefly with BBC World Service.
• She has also served as a Deputy Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies at Hyderabad.
• She also started a school in Hyderabad and was a member of the National Commission for Women from 2003-2005.
• Sitharaman joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2006 and was enlisted as one of the six party spokespersons in March 2010.
• She, however, quickly grew in rank with her remarkable speaking style and debating skills.
• When the BJP came to power in 2014, Sitharaman was inducted into the ministry, serving as Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs.
• In May 2016, she was sworn in as Minister of State (Independent Charge) Commerce.
Sitharaman would be taking charge of the crucial Defence ministry at a time when tension continues along India's borders with Pakistan and China and the government is undertaking major reforms in the ministry and forces and has ambitious plans to increase defence manufacturing under its flagship 'Make in India' policy.