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India's women power on display in Modi cabinet

More than a quarter of the new Cabinet of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are women, with six women out of a team of 23 ministers sworn in.

NEW DELHI: More than a quarter of the new Cabinet of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are women, with six women out of a team of 23 ministers sworn in.

This is in sharp contrast with the outgoing administration that had just two women out of 28 members, a mere seven per cent representation.

It is also notable that senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj has been given the charge of the external affairs portfolio, which places a woman in the powerful Cabinet Committee on Security.

The committee is the nation's top decision-making body on national security.

Mrs Swaraj is the first woman in three decades to be part of this elite group.

Incidentally, both the oldest and the youngest members in Mr Modi's Cabinet also happen to be women.

Najma Heptulla is the eldest at 74. She was once a prominent Congress member in the Upper House. She moved to the BJP in 2004 from the Congress after differences with the top leadership.

The lone Muslim face in the Cabinet, she has been given the charge of minority affairs.

"Empowerment of women has become a reality,” she said.

“Six women have come to the Cabinet and that is a cause for celebration. I hoped that Narendra Modi would deliver on his promise of women empowerment and it has happened."

Smriti Irani, who took on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the high-profile poll battle in Amethi, is the youngest member at 38.

She has been handed the plum human resource development portfolio.

"I had never dreamt that I would get a chance to serve the nation and I thank the prime minister for giving me this opportunity," she said.

Uma Bharti, Maneka Gandhi and the Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) Harsimrat Kaur Badal are the other women cabinet ministers.

Mrs Badal is the lone woman from a coalition ally to be sworn-in as a cabinet minister.

As promised, Mr Modi has given a big thumbs up to female leaders in his administration.

While women may account for a meagre 11 per cent of all Lower House members, they have indeed fared better when it came to representation in the Cabinet -- a welcome change from the previous governments.  

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