Nirmala Sitharaman (born 18 August 1959) is an Indian politician of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who is currently serving as the Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs. She is a member of the Rajya Sabha, upper house of the Indian Parliament, since 2014. Sitharaman formerly served as the Defence Minister of India, thereby becoming India’s second female defence minister and also the second female finance minister after Indira Gandhi and first full time Finance Minister. She has served as the Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs under the Ministry of Finance and the Minister for Commerce and Industry with independent charge. Prior to that, she served as a national spokesperson for the BJP.
Nirmala Sitharaman was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, to Savitri and Narayanan Sitharaman. Her father hailed from Musiri, Tiruchirappalli, while her mother’s family had its roots in Thiruvenkadu, and in the Thanjavur and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. Her father was an employee of Indian Railways and hence she spent her childhood in various parts of the state. She had her schooling from Madras and Tiruchirappalli. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics at the Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Tiruchirapalli in 1980, Master of Arts degree in economics and M.Phil. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in 1984.She then enrolled for a Ph.D. in economics with a focus on Indo-Europe trade, but a move to London after her husband secured a scholarship in London School of Economics left her unable to complete the degree.
Sitharaman met her husband Parakala Prabhakar, a Telugu Brahmin, from Narsapuram, Andhra Pradesh, while studying at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. While Nirmala leaned towards the BJP, her husband was from a pro-Congress family.They married in 1986, and have a daughter. Prabhakar served as a communications advisor to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu.
Nirmala Sitharaman worked as a salesperson at Habitat, a home décor store in London’s Regent Street. She has served as an assistant to Economist in the Agricultural Engineers Association in the UK. During her stay in the UK, she has also served as a Senior Manager (R&D)for Price Waterhouse and briefly at the BBC World Service.
She has also served as a member of National Commission for Women.In 2017, she was one of the founding directors of Pranava in Hyderabad.
Sitharaman joined the BJP in 2006 and was appointed as a spokesperson for the party in 2010. In 2014, she was inducted into Narendra Modi’s cabinet as a junior minister and in June 2014, she was elected as a Rajya Sabha Member from Andhra Pradesh.
In May 2016, she was one of the 12 candidates nominated by the BJP to contest the Rajya Sabha elections due on 11 June 2016. She successfully contested her seat from Karnataka. On 3 September 2017, she was appointed as Minister of Defence, being only the second woman after Indira Gandhi to hold the post. On 31 May 2019, Nirmala Sitharaman was appointed as the finance and corporate affairs minister. She is India’s first full-time female finance minister. She presented her prime budget in the Indian parliament on July 5, 2019.