Sucheta Kripalani was a member of the Constituent Assembly who was elected from the United Province. She was a freedom fighter, parliamentarian and the first woman Chief Minister of an Indian State (Uttar Pradesh) in 1963. Kripalani was born 110 years ago on 25th June 1908.
Kripalani joined the freedom struggle movement in the late 1930’s, a few years after her marriage to Acharya Kripalani (a veteran freedom fighter). She resigned from Banaras Hindu University in 1939 and joined Acharya in Allahabad. During this time, she developed interest in the Indian political movement and became a member of the Congress party.
The All India Congress Committee entrusted crucial responsibilities on her- she was in charge of the Foreign Department and the Women’s section. During 1940-46, she worked hard in organizing the Women’s section of the Congress Party. In an interview, she recounts her experience of this task – she narrates the difficulties she had to overcome to increase women’s participation in the Indian political and independence movement. She identified two distinct problems: participation in freedom movement posed a risk of incarceration; the lack of financial resources coupled with the reluctance of the party to allocate significant funds to the Women’s section. Despite these shortcomings she was able to mobilise women to participate in the freedom struggle.
Acharya and Kripalani were active members of the Congress Party. But, Acharya quit the Congress because of his differences with Nehru and established Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party (KMPP) in 1950. Kripalani was a part of KMPP for a couple of years and rejoined Congress in 1952.
Both had different political ideologies. For instance, both of them had diverse views on Uniform Civil Code. During the debates on the Hindu Code Bill in the Lok Sabha, Acharya was critical of Government’s move to ban polygamy only for the Hindus. He argued that the Muslim community was ready and would welcome a single Code to govern personal laws but the Congress party was not ‘brave enough to do it’. Kripalani defended the party’s position: she argued that in the light of the prevailing political climate specifically the minority problem it was best not to adopt Uniform Civil Code and revisit this in the future.
Kripalani was a seasoned parliamentarian and was active in the political scene of Uttar Pradesh. In 1960, under the Chief Ministership of Chandra Bhanu Gupta she was appointed as the Minister for Labour, Community Development and Industries. Further, in 1963 elections, she was elected as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh - the first woman Chief Minister of an Indian State. She stands first in the list only 15 other women have been elected as head of Indian states since independence.
Read more about her here.