Maneka Gandhi is an Indian Politician and Animal Rights Activist. She is the Union Minister for Women and Child Development. She is from the BJP and also the Member of Parliament from Pilibhit. She is also the founder of an organization, People For Animals; which is the largest organization in India for animal welfare and their rights.
Maneka Gandhi was born on 26 August 1956 (age 62 years; as in 2018) in New Delhi. Her zodiac sign is Virgo. She did her schooling from The Lawrence School, Sanwar, Himachal Pradesh; which is one of the top boarding schools of India, where children of many renowned personalities of India have also attended.
She did her graduation from Lady Sri Ram College for Women, New Delhi and she studied German from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She participated in many beauty pageants and fashion shows when she was in college. This got her interested in modelling, and she used to take up many modelling assignments while she was in college.
She got her first big modelling assignment when she got selected as a model for an advertisement for Bombay Dyeing. She was widely appreciated for this ad. Apparently, when Sanjay Gandhi fell in love with her after seeing her in the advertisement.
Family, Caste & Husband
Maneka Gandhi was born in a Sikh family to Lt. Col. Tarlochan Singh Anand and Amteshwar Anand. Her father was in the Army and her mother was the publisher of her magazine, Surya. She also has a sister, Ambika Shukla. She was married to Sanjay Gandhi, son of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Her sister, Ambika Shukla, is also an animal rights activist.
Maneka Gandhi was involved in politics right after her marriage to Sanjay Gandhi. She used to go on campaigns and attend rallies with him but she never contested or was into active politics. After her husband’s death, she was sure that she would get Sanjay’s position in the party and would take part in politics along with Indira Gandhi, but Rajiv Gandhi was brought into politics to replace Sanjay, which was quite a shock to Maneka; as she felt that she had been cheated. After a falling out with Indira Gandhi, she along with supporters of Sanjay Gandhi, formed a party named the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch in 1983.
Her party fought the assembly elections of Andhra Pradesh and won 4 of the 5 seats. This was an achievement for her as her party was considerably new. In 1984, she contested the Lok Sabha elections from Amethi against Rajiv Gandhi but lost; due to the public sympathy, he had gained after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
In 1988, she merged her party with The Janata Dal and was also appointed its General Secretary. The next year she was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time on a Janata Dal ticket. She was also appointed as the Minister of State for The Ministry of Environment in the VP Singh Government
She contested the 1996 and the 1998 Lok Sabha Elections as an independent candidate from Pilibhit and won both times. In 1999 she supported BJP as an independent candidate and was appointed as the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Cabinet.
In 2004, she and her son Varun Gandhi joined the BJP. She contested the Lok Sabha Elections from the Pilibhit seat and has been winning since then. In 2014, she was inducted into the Narendra Modi Government as the Union Minister for Women and Child Development.
In 2019 she will be contesting the Lok Sabha Elections from the Sultanpur Constituency.
- In 1982, Indira Gandhi forced Maneka to leave her house and live a separate life. After Sanjay’s death in 1980, Maneka wanted to be in Sanjay place as she believed she should replace her husband, but Indira Gandhi brought Rajiv Gandhi into politics, which was a shock for Maneka. She along with a Sanjay’s supporters started a group named Sanjay Vichar Manch and used to hold conventions. Indira Gandhi was furious when once Maneka Gandhi spoke against her will in Lucknow, in a convention. She confronted Maneka and accused her of bad mouthing her. This led to an argument following which, Maneka was asked to leave Indira’s house stating that she did not deserve to stay there.
- In 2014, before the assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh, Maneka Gandhi approached the BJP leadership and appealed them to name her son, Varun Gandhi, as the Chief Ministerial Candidate of Uttar Pradesh. She talked about this publically and was criticized by many people as being desperate.
- In 2019, she was served a show-cause notice by the Election Commission for a hate speech that she gave during a rally in Sultanpur. She stated that if Muslims of her constituency did not vote her to power, she will not help them get jobs. This statement was condemned by many people, including her own party which distanced themselves from the statement saying that these were not the views of the party.
Awards and Honours
- Lord Erskine Award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 1992
- Environmentalist and Vegetarian of the year 1994
- Prani Mitra Award in 1996
- Dewaliben Charitable Trust Award, 1999
- Lifetime Achievement Award by the Venu Menon Animal Allies Foundation, 1999
- Dinanath Mangeshkar Aadishakti Puraskar in the field of Environment and Animal Welfare, 2001
- Woman of the Year Award by the International Women’s Association, 2001
- Rukmini Devi Arundale Animal Welfare Award, 2011
- Human Achiever Award in the field of Women Empowerment and Children Welfare by the Human Achiever Foundation, India
- She was famously known as the Towel Girl in the 1970’s’ because of her advertisement for towels, with Bombay Dyeing.
- She had started her own magazine, Surya, in 1977. This was a political magazine which usually printed articles and interviews of Indira Gandhi. This helped Congress and Indira Gandhi a lot as it swayed public opinion in their favour and eventually helped Congress be re-elected in 1980.
- In 1989, she was the youngest MP to be appointed as a Union Minister, at the age of 33.
- Her son, Varun Gandhi, was named after Sanjay’s father, Feroze. Later Indira Gandhi gave named him Varun. Varun’s official name is still Feroze Varun Gandhi.
- Her husband, Sanjay Gandhi, wished to raise their children according to the Zoroastrian religion.
- She is an avid animal lover. She had started her own organization named People For Animals in 1992. It is the largest organization for animal rights and welfare in India and she is the chairperson of the organization as well. Her organization also works with international organizations of the same field such as Humane Society International (HSI) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).