Ex-diplomat, champion of Dalit cause, is first woman speaker (Profile)

June 2nd, 2009 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) Meira Kumar, who is set to become the first woman speaker of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, is a former diplomat who left the foreign service to fight the cause of Dalits.
Daughter of Babu Jagjivan Ram, India’s independence movement leader who rose to become the defence minister and deputy prime minister of India, the MP from Sasaram in Bihar was handpicked by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take on the mantle of speaker, a challenging task for a woman to manage a house of 545 MPS that is prone to erupt into chaos and disorder at the slightest provocation.

Meira Kumar started her public life early. At the age of 22 she became chairperson of the Congress party’s national drought relief committee during the century’s worst drought in 1967. The committee launched a family adoption scheme under which drought-affected people were adopted by affluent families.

She did not ride piggyback on the shoulders of her father, but worked her way to win five times to the Lok Sabha.

In 1973, she joined the Indian Foreign Service that took her to postings in embassies in Spain, Britain and Mauritius. She quit the foreign service to take the plunge into politics. In 1985, she won her first election from Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh.

A law graduate, Meira Kumar also holds a masters degree in English literature.

She studied at Indraprastha College and Miranda House, University of Delhi. The Patna-born Meira Kumar can also speak Spanish. She is trained in rifle-shooting and equestrian sports.

She has also been a party general secretary and a member of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision making body.

Her husband is a Supreme Court lawyer, Manjul Kumar.

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