Sucheta Kriplani

25 Jun 1908
1 Dec 1974
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Sucheta Kriplani (née Mazumdar, 25 June 1908– 1 December 1974) was an Indian freedom fighter and politician. She was India’s first woman Chief Minister, serving as the head of the Uttar Pradesh government from 1963 to 1967.

She was born in Ambala, Punjab (now in Haryana) to a Bengali family. She studied at Indraprastha Collegeand Panjab University before becoming a Professor of Constitutional History at Banaras Hindu University. In 1936, she married Acharya Kriplani, a prominent figure of the Indian National Congress, who was twenty years her senior. The marriage was opposed by both families, as well as by Gandhi himself, although he eventually relented.

Like her contemporaries Aruna Asaf Ali and Usha Mehta, she came to the forefront during the Quit India Movement. She later worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi during the Partition riots. She accompanied him to Noakhali in 1946. She was one of the few women who were elected to the Constituent Assembly and was part of the subcommittee that drafted the Indian Constitution. She became a part of the subcommittee that was handed over the task of laying down the charter for the constitution of India. On 14 August 1947 she sang Vande Mataram in the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly, a few minutes before Nehru delivered his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech. She was also the founder of All India Mahilla Congress, established in 1940.

After the independence, she remained involved with politics. For the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, she contested from New Delhi on a KMPP ticket: she had joined the short-lived party founded by her husband the year before. She defeated the Congress candidate Manmohini Sahgal. Five years later, she was reelected from the same constituency, but this time she was the Congress candidate. She was elected one last time to the Lok Sabha in 1967, from Gonda constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, she had also become a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. From 1960 to 1963, she served as Minister of Labour, Community Development and Industry in the UP government. In October 1963, she became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the first woman to hold that position in any Indian state. The highlight of her tenure was the firm handling of a state employees strike. The first-ever strike by the state employees which continued for 62 days took place during her regime. She relented only when the employees’ leaders agreed for compromise. Kriplani kept her reputation as a firm administrator by refusing their demand for pay hike.

She retired from politics in 1971 and remained in seclusion till her death in 1974.

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