The slow and steady rise of India's Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
On Sunday, the big surprise pick by Narendra Modi was Nirmala Sitharaman. She is the first woman to hold independent charge of Defence. Before her the only woman to hold the Defence portfolio was Indira Gandhi when she was Prime Minister of India.
Gandhi was the prime minister when she kept the defence portfolio with herself, from December 1 to 21, 1975 and January 14, 1980 to January 15, 1982.
"Somebody who has come from a small town, grown into 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 told reporters on Sunday.
She served as a member of the National Commission for Women between 2003 and 2005. Scholarly and non-controversial, Sitharaman, who also had a stint with PricewaterhouseCoopers research unit in London, was brought into the BJP's national executive committee in 2008 and appointed party's national spokesperson in 2010 when Nitin Gadkari took over as the party president.
Sitharaman soon became a prominent face of the BJP on TV. She was among the few party leaders who were articulate, aggressive and could get the view point across effortlessly in English.
In her initial days as spokesperson, the Tamil Nadu-born politician admitted her knowledge of Hindi was limited but she soon had gained proficiency.
As the spokesperson, she was known to thoroughly research the topics she had to speak on. She maintained a low profile and mostly operated out of a small room in the BJP headquarters. She was also one of the few BJP leaders who carried a laptop.
As the commerce minister, Sitharaman was a tough negotiator and successfully put across India's point of view at the World Trade Organisation, impressing the Prime Minister.