It was in JNU that Sitharaman met her husband, Prabhakar Parakala, also committed to politics, but of a different kind. Parkala’s father, Seshavataram Parakala, was a well-known Congress politician and an associate of P V Narasimha Rao. Sitharaman and he got married and she registered for a PhD dissertation (on India-Europe textile trade in the GATT framework) which she never completed because Prabhakar got a scholarship for a PhD at the London School of Economics and she couldn’t appear for the viva.
She signed up to be a salesgirl at Habitat, a home décor store in London’s Regent Street, where she won a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne that winter because she made record Christmas sales. That was a short-lived pursuit. She moved on to the research division of PricewaterhouseCoopers. But soon after, a baby was on the way and the duo returned to India in 1991.
She set up a school in Hyderabad – a kind of alternative education set up (now given on lease). She came in touch with Sushma Swaraj and much later, was appointed to the National
Commission for Women (2003-05). She joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2006. When the BJP adopted 33 per cent reservation structure for women throughout the party, she was invited to join the National
Executive Council. She was appointed national
spokesperson in 2010 and moved from Hyderabad to Delhi.
Swaraj and Sitharaman had a historic falling out on Telangana. In February 2014, Sitharaman tweeted: “If only Sushma had stood for Seemaandhra in Lok Sabha just like Venkaiah & Jaitley did today”. To this, Swaraj responded: “With spokespersons like @nsitharaman, u don’t need enemies”. Both the tweets were deleted but the damage was done. It was Swaraj who bitterly opposed Sitharaman’s entry in the Rajya Sabha.
Jaitley took her under his wing and in 2014 she became the commerce minister. Then the question came of entering Parliament. Naidu nixed backing her candidature from Andhra Pradesh. She was finally elected from Karnataka.
As defence minister, Sitharaman will sit in the Cabinet Committee on Security, in the company of Jaitley and Swaraj (and Rajnath Singh). She will have to match up to the stature of politicians like A K Antony, George Fernandes and Jagjivan Ram and the authority and political muscle they brought with them to the job.
Arun Jaitley to attend Japan security dialogue instead of Sitharaman
Arun Jaitley will attend a key security dialogue with Japan on Monday as Nirmala Sitharaman, appointed the new defence minister on Sunday, was yet to take charge.
Jaitley, who has been holding the defence portfolio, said due to logistical constraints, he will be attending the security dialogue.
"Normally, the new defence minister should have been going but logistically that doesn’t seem possible today, being a Sunday, to make the changes. And it is a very important security dialogue between the two countries, particularly on the eve of Japanese PM’s visit,” Jaitley said. PTI
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