Sucheta Kripalani
4th Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
In office
2 October 1963 – 13 March 1967
Preceded byChandra Bhanu Gupta
Succeeded byChandra Bhanu Gupta
Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha)
In office
1967–1971
Preceded byN. Dandekar
Succeeded byAnand Singh
ConstituencyGonda
MLA in Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh
In office
1962–1967
Succeeded byChandra Sekhar Singh
ConstituencyMenhdawal
Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha)
In office
1951–1961
Preceded byconstituency established
Succeeded byBalraj Madhok
ConstituencyNew Delhi
Member of Constituent Assembly of India
In office
9 December 1946 – 24 January 1950
Personal details
Born(1908-06-25)25 June 1908
Ambala, Punjab, British India
(present-day Haryana, India)
Died1 December 1974(1974-12-01) (aged 66)
New Delhi, India
Political partyINC
Spouse(s)J. B. Kripalani[1]
Alma materUniversity of Delhi

Sucheta Kripalani (née Majumdar; 25 June 1908[2] – 1 December 1974[3][4]) 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.

Early life

She was born in Ambala, Punjab (now in Haryana) into a Bengali Brahmo family. Her father Surendranath Majumdar, worked as a medical officer, a job that required many transfers. As a result, she attended a number of schools, her final degree is a Master’s in History from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi.

This was a time when the country’s atmosphere was charged with nationalist sentiments and the freedom struggle was gaining momentum.

She was not born with a steely will and exemplary leadership qualities. Rather, she was a shy child, self-conscious about her appearance and intellect, as she points out in her book, An Unfinished Autobiography. It was the age she grew up in and the situations she faced that shaped her personality. Sucheta recounts how, as a 10-year-old, she and her siblings had heard their father and his friends talk about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. It left them so outraged that they vented their anger on some of the Anglo-Indian children they played with, by calling them names.

Her exact words were- “I could understand enough to feel great anger against the British [after hearing about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre]. We [Sucheta and her sister Sulekha] vented out anger on some of the Anglo-Indian children who played with us, calling them all kinds of names,”

Both Sucheta and her sister Sulekha were desperate to join India’s burgeoning Independence movement. There is one particularly fascinating incident which Sucheta narrates in her book. After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the Prince of Wales had visited Delhi. Girls from her school were taken to stand near the Kudsia Garden to honour the Prince of Wales. Despite wanting to refuse, both the sisters couldn't, and that left them bitterly outraged at their apparent cowardice.

“This did not absolve our conscience from feeling shame. We both felt very small of our cowardice,” she writes.[5]

Later, while a student of Kinnaird College in Lahore, her Bible class teacher had said some disparaging things about Hinduism. Furious, Sucheta and her sister went home and asked their father to help them out. He coached them on some religious teachings and, the next day, the girls confronted their teacher with quotes from the Bhagavad Gita. The teacher never referred to Hinduism in class ever again! [6]

She studied at Indraprastha College[7] and Punjab University before becoming a Professor of Constitutional History at Banaras Hindu University.[8] In 1936, she married J. B. Kripalani, 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.[9]

Freedom movement and independence

Like her contemporaries Aruna Asaf Ali and Usha Mehta, she came to the forefront during the Quit India Movement and was arrested by British . She later worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi during the Partition riots. She accompanied him to Noakhali in 1946. Mahatma Gandhi wrote on her -

" a person of rare courage and character who brought credit to Indian womanhood"

She was one of the few women who were elected to the Constituent Assembly of India. She was elected as the first woman CM of state of Uttar Pradesh from the Kanpur constituency and was part of the subcommittee that drafted the Indian Constitution. She became a part of the subcommittee that laid 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.[10] She was also the founder of the All India Mahilla Congress, established in 1940.

Post-independence

Kripalani with (from left to right) Ulla Lindström, Barbara Castle, Cairine Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1949.
Kripalani with (from left to right) Ulla Lindström, Barbara Castle, Cairine Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1949.

After 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 as the Congress candidate.[11] She was elected one last time to the Lok Sabha in 1967, from Gonda constituency in Uttar Pradesh.[8]

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.[8] 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. This first-ever strike by the state employees continued for 62 days. She relented only when the employees' leaders agreed to compromise. Kripalani kept her reputation as a firm administrator by refusing their demand for a pay hike.

When Congress split in 1969, she left the party with Morarji Desai faction to form NCO. She lost 1971 election as NCO candidate from Faizabad (Lok Sabha constituency). She retired from politics in 1971 and remained in seclusion till her death in 1974.

References

  1. ^ "Sucheta Kripalani: Biography: Sucheta Mazumdar: Famous Sindhi Woman: Politician: Acharya Kripalani | The Sindhu World". thesindhuworld.com. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  2. ^ S K Sharma (2004), Eminent Indian Freedom Fighters, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD., p. 560, ISBN 978-81-261-1890-8
  3. ^ http://www.sandesh.org/Story_detail.asp?pageID=1&id=48
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Meet India's First Woman CM". The Better India. 18 April 2018.
  6. ^ Live History India https://www.livehistoryindia.com/herstory/2019/01/08/sucheta-kriplani-crying-freedom. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "Vital statistics of colleges that figure among India's top rankers". India Today. 21 May 2001.
  8. ^ a b c "Kripalani, Shrimati Sucheta". Lok Sabha. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  9. ^ Usha Thakkar, Jayshree Mehta (2011). Understanding Gandhi: Gandhians in Conversation with Fred J Blum. SAGE Publications. pp. 409–410. ISBN 978-81-321-0557-2.
  10. ^ "Constituent Assembly of India - Volume-V". Parliament of India. 14 August 1947. Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  11. ^ David Gilmartin (2014). "Chapter 5: The paradox of patronage and the people's sovereignty". In Anastasia Pivliavsky (ed.). Patronage as Politics in South Asia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-1-107-05608-4.
Political offices Preceded byChandra Bhanu Gupta Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh 2 October 1963 – 13 March 1967 Succeeded byChandra Bhanu Gupta