Maneka Gandhi: Biography, Personal Life, Political Career

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi was born 26 August 1956) is an Indian politician, animal rights activist, and environmentalist. She is a member of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament and a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She is the widow of Indian politician Sanjay Gandhi. She has been a minister in four governments, most recently in Narendra Modi's government from May 2014 to May 2019. Gandhi authored a number of books in the areas of etymology, law and animal welfare.

Maneka Gandhi Biography
Maneka Gandhi


Key Description:

Minister: Women and Child Development (26 May 2014 – 24 May 2019 )

Prime Minister: Narendra Modi

Preceded By: Krishna Tirath

Succeeded By: Smriti Irani

Member of Parliament: 23 May 2019

Preceded By: Varun Gandhi

Constituency: Sultanpur (2014–2019)

Preceded By: Varun Gandhi

Succeeded By: Varun Gandhi

Constituency: Pilibhit (2009–2014)

Preceded By: Sarvraj Singh

Succeeded By: Dharmendra Kashyap

Constituency: Aonla (1996–2009)

Preceded By: Parshuram Gangwar

Succeeded By: Varun Gandhi

Constituency: Pilibhit (1989–1991)

Preceded By: Bhanu Pratap Singh

Succeeded By: Parshuram Gangwar

Constituency: Pilibhit

Minister of State for Programme Implementation and Statistics (Independent Charge)

18 November 2001 – 30 June 2002

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge) 1 September 2001 – 18 November 2001

Prime Minister: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment (13 October 1999 – 1 September 2001)

Prime Minister: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Personal Details

Born: Maneka Anand, 26 August 1956 (age 64), New Delhi, India

Political Party: Bharatiya Janata Party

Other Political: Affiliations Janata Dal(1988-1998) Independent (1998-2004)

Spouse(s): Sanjay Gandhi ​(m. 1974; died 1980)​

Children: Varun Gandhi

Occupation: Politician, animal-rights activist (As of 27 May, 2014)

Source: Government of India

Social Network: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram


Maneka Gandhi Personal Life

Maneka Anand was born on 26 August 1956 in Delhi, India into a Sikh family. Her father was Indian Army officer Lt. Col. Tarlochan Singh Anand and her mother was Amteshwar Anand. She went to Lawrence School and later Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She subsequently studied German at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Maneka first met Sanjay Gandhi in 1973 at a cocktail party thrown by her uncle, Major-General Kapur, to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of his son. Maneka married Gandhi, the son of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, one year later on 23 September 1974.

The Emergency of 1975-77 saw the rise of Sanjay into politics and Maneka was seen with him almost every time on his tours as she helped him in campaigns. It is often said that during the Emergency, Sanjay had total control over his mother (Indira) and that the government was run by the PMH (Prime Minister House) rather than the PMO (Prime Minister Office).

Maneka Gandhi founded the news magazine Surya which later played a key role in promotion of the Congress party after its defeat in the 1977 election following the Emergency.

Gandhi went to court to fight an attempt by the government in power at the time to confiscate her passport and won a landmark decision on personal liberty. In the case of Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, the court found that "Democracy is based essentially on free debate and open discussion, for that is the only corrective of government action in a democratic setup."

In 1980 Gandhi gave birth to a son, Feroze, named after his paternal grandfather. Her mother-in-law added the name Varun. Gandhi was just twenty-three years old, and her son just 100 days old, when her husband died in an air crash.


Maneka Gandhi Early Life And Career

Maneka's relationship with Indira Gandhi gradually disintegrated after Sanjay's death and they would continually argue with one another. Maneka was eventually forced out of 1, Safdarjung Road, the prime minister's residence, after a fallout with Indira. She founded the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch along with Akbar Ahmad. The party primarily focused on youth empowerment and employment. It won four out of five seats in the Elections in Andhra Pradesh.

Gandhi published The Complete Book of Muslim and Parsi Names, in recognition of her husband's Zoroastrian faith.

She later published The Book of Hindu Names (Penguin).

Gandhi contested the Amethi constituency from Uttar Pradesh for the 1984 general election for the Lok Sabha, but lost to Rajiv Gandhi. In 1988, she joined V.P. Singh's Janata Dal Party and became the General Secretary. In the November 1989 Indian general election Gandhi won her first election to Parliament and became a Minister of State as the Minister for Environment.


Maneka Gandhi Activism

Gandhi is a self-described environmentalist and animal rights leader in India. She has earned international awards and acclaim. She was appointed chairwoman of the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) in 1995. Under her direction, CPCSEA members carried unannounced inspections of laboratories where animals are used for scientific research were conducted.

Gandhi has filed Public Interest Litigations that have achieved the replacement of the municipal killing of homeless dogs with a sterilisation programme, the unregulated sale of airguns and a ban on mobile or travelling zoos. She currently chairs the Jury of International Energy Globe Foundation which meets annually in Austria to award the best environmental innovations of the year. She is a member of the Eurosolar Board and the Wuppertal Institute, Germany.

Gandhi started the organisation People for Animals in 1992 and it is the largest organisation for animal rights/welfare in India. Gandhi is also a patron of International Animal Rescue. While she is not a vegan, she has advocated this lifestyle on ethical and health grounds. She also anchored the weekly television program Heads and Tails, highlighting the suffering meted out to animals due to their commercial exploitation. She has also authored a book under the same title. Her other books were about Indian people names. She is a cast member for the documentary A Delicate Balance.


Maneka Gandhi Criticism

Gandhi has often been criticized for her comments. In June 2017, during a Facebook Live session, she commented that men do not commit suicide. She received negative responses to the comment and spent the rest of the chat answering questions related to this, with chatters pointing out that 68% of the suicide cases reported in India were committed by men. In March 2017, she said that an early curfew for girls in hostels helped young women control their "hormonal outbursts" and received a backlash for the comment.

Alleged Spread of hatred against muslims

Police in Kerala booked Maneka on the basis of complaints against her for promoting hatred by leveling accusations coated with communal overtones for a death of a pregnant elephant, against residents in the Muslim-majority district of Malappuram on June 2020. While the elephant died in Mannarcad, Palakkad district, nearly 90 km from Malappuram, BJP leaders including Maneka targeted the only Muslim-majority district of Kerala. She said: “It’s a murder. Malappuram is famous for such incidents, it’s India’s most violent district. For instance, they throw poison on roads so that 300-400 birds & dogs die at one time”. The incident was used by many right-wingers to proliferate anti-Muslim resentment and to demonize the community. A multitude of hateful messages toward Malappuram and his people accompanied her remarks, triggering enraged responses. She was charged with adding communal color to an animal-related issue that would otherwise be constrained within the Department of Forests. A group calling themselves Kerala Cyber Warriors briefly hacked Maneka Gandhi's website, People for Animals, India.

Maneka Gandhi Electoral History

1984 - Lost to Rajiv Gandhi from Amethi (Lok Sabha constituency) over 2.7L votes, was contesting as an Independent Candidate

1989-91 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Janata Dal party ticket

1991 - Lost as Janata Dal candidate to BJP's Parashuram in Pilibhit

1996-98 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Janata Dal party ticket

1998-99 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected as an Independent Candidate

1999-2004 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected as an Independent Candidate

2004-09 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket

2009-14 - Member of Lok Sabha from Aonla (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket

2014-19 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket

2019–present - Member of Lok Sabha from Sultanpur (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket.


Maneka Gandhi Positions Held In Govt.

  • 1988–89 – General-Secretary, Janata Dal (J.D.)
  • 1989–91 – Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests
  • January–April 1990 – Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Programme Implementation
  • 1996–97 – Member, Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests
  • 1998–99 – Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • 13 October 1999 – 1 September 2001– Union Minister of State, Social Justice and Empowerment (Independent Charge)
  • 1 September 2001 – 18 November 2001 – Union Minister of State, Culture with additional charge of Animal Care (Independent Charge)
  • Programme Implementation and Statistics with added charge of Animal Care (Independent Charge)
  • 18 November 2001 – 30 June 2002 – Union Minister of State, Programme Implementation and Statistics with additional charge of Animal Care (Independent Charge)
  • 2002–2004 – Member, Committee on External Affairs
  • 2004 – Member, Committee on Health & Family Welfare, Member, Consultative Committee, Ministry of Environment and Forests
  • 5 August 2007 – onwards Member, Committee on Health & Family Welfare
  • 31 August 2009 – Became Member of Committee on Railways
  • 23 September 2009 – Chairperson, Committee on Government Assurances
  • 19 October 2009 – Member, General Purposes Committee
  • 26 May 2014 – Union Minister of Women & Child Development
  • Shining World Compassion Award along with a cheque for 20,000 dollars from Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association.[29]
  • Lord Erskine Award from the RSPCA, 1992
  • Environmentalist and Vegetarian of the year 1994
  • Prani Mitra Award, 1996
  • Maharana Mewar Foundation Award, 1996 for Environmental work
  • Marchig Animal Welfare and selling Prize, Switzerland, 1997
  • Venu Menon Animal Allies Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999
  • Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation Award for Excellence in the sphere of Truth, Non-violence and Vegetarianism, 1999
  • Dewaliben Charitable Trust Award, 1999
  • International Women's Association Woman of the Year Award, Chennai, 2001
  • Dinanath Mangeshkar Aadishakti Puraskar in the field of Environment and animal welfare, 2001
  • Rukmini Devi Arundale Animal Welfare Award
  • A.S.G. Jayakar award, 2008
  • Human Achiever Award in field of Women Empowerment and Children Welfare by Mrs Caroline W/O Ambassador Of Namibia and Ms Sanorita Issac, founder & Chairperson, Human Achiever Foundation, India.

Maneka Gandhi Books

  • 1000 animal quiz, Calcutta : Rupa and Co., 1989, 201 p.
  • Brahma's hair : the mythology of Indian plants, Calcutta : Rupa and Co., 1991, 175 p. With Yasmin Singh.
  • The Penguin book of Hindu names, London : Penguin Books ; New Delhi : Penguin Books India, 1992, 522 p. Latest edition in 2008.
  • Dogs, dogs, dogs, New Delhi : Rupa & Co., 1994, 261 p. With Ozair Husain. Latest edition in 2004.
  • The complete book of Muslim and Parsi names, New Delhi : Indus, 1994, 522 p. With Ozair Husain.
  • Heads and tails, Mapusa, Goa, India : Other India Press, 1994, 182 p. On animal rights and animal rights.
  • The rainbow and other stories, New Delhi : Puffin Books, 1999, 67 p. Children's short stories.
  • The Penguin book of Hindu names for boys, New Delhi : Penguin Books, 2004, 429 p.
  • The Penguin book of Hindu names for girls, New York : Penguin Books, 2004, 151 p.
  • The Rupa book of animal quiz, Rupa & Co., 2004, 201 p.
  • Animal laws of India, New Delhi, India : Universal Law Publishing, 2016, 1649 p. With Ozair Husain and Raj Panjwani.
  • Sanjay Gandhi, New Delhi : Prestige Publishers, 2017, 244 p. With Himani Bhatia Narula.
  • There's a monster under my bed! : and other terrible terrors, Gurgaon : Puffin Books, 2019, 54 p. Children's short stories. Illustrations by Snigdha Rao.