Najma Heptulla

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Najma Heptulla
Minister of Minority Affairs
Assumed office
26 May 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Preceded by K. Rahman Khan
Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
In office
1985–1986, 1988–2004
Member of Rajya Sabha
In office
2004–2010, 2012–2014,2014–present
Personal details
Born (1940-04-13) 13 April 1940 (age 75)
Bhopal, Bhopal State
Political party Bharatiya Janata Party (since 2004),
Indian National Congress (1960s to 2004)
Spouse(s) Akbarali A. Heptulla (1966–2007) (his death)
Children 3 Daughters
Residence Delhi
Occupation Politician

Dr. Najma Akbarali Heptulla (born 13 April 1940) is an Indian politician. She is a former vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and a five time member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian parliament, between 1986 and 2012, and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha for sixteen years. She was a member representing Rajasthan from July 2004 to July 2010. She was nominated by the BJP for the Rajya Sabha in 2012 from Madhya Pradesh, and assumed her office on 24 April 2012.[1]

She is a grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a prominent Indian freedom fighter.[2] She is also a second cousin to actor Aamir Khan.[3][4][5] She contested the 13th vice-presidential election held in August 2007 but lost to Hamid Ansari by 233 votes. She took oath as a cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi headed government on 26 May 2014. She is assisted by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who joined the Council of Ministers as a Minister of State in November 2014.

Early life and background[edit]

Najma was born in Bhopal, Bhopal State, in present Madhya Pradesh to Syed Yusuf Ali and Fatima Yusuf Ali. The Family are of Arab descent and they claim to be Saiyyid. She did her schooling from Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya (MVM) Bhopal, and holds both a Masters' of Science Degree in Zoology, and a PhD in Zoology(Cardiac Anatomy) from Vikram University, Ujjain.[6][7]

She married Akbarali A Heptulla in 1966, and has three daughters.[6] Her husband, Akbarali A Heptulla, a manpower consultant, was instrumental the establishment of the Patriot newspaper in the 1960s. He died on 4 September 2007, in New Delhi at the age of 75.[8]


She steadily climbed up in the Indian National Congress party, heading several divisions of the party's grassroots organisations. She was the General Secretary of Congress during 1986 with the additional responsibility of youth activities of the All India Congress Committee and the NSUI.[9] Since 1980, she has been a member of the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra for four terms at 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998 as Congress candidate.[10] Najma was the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha from January 1985 to January 1986 and from 1988 to July 2004.[11]

Heptulla was nominated to head the Indian Council of Cultural Affairs. She also presided over the women parliamentarians' group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1993 and became founder president of the parliamentarians' forum for human development the same year. She was also elected President of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a Geneva-based international organisation at Council's 165th session in Berlin in 1999. She held the post from 16 October 1999 to 27 September 2002. Subsequently, in 2002, at Council's 171st session, she was chosen the Honorary President of the IPU Council. Heptulla was nominated by the United Nations Development Programme as its human development ambassador. Heptulla led a delegation to the UN Commission on Status of Women in 1997.[12]

Heptulla has authored book on AIDS titled "AIDS: Approaches to Prevention". She has also written on human social security, sustainable development, environment, reforms for women and on ties between India and west Asia.

Heptulla joined Bharatiya Janata Party in 2004.[13][14] Media sources reported that she left the Congress apparently due to a strain in relationship with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.[15] Later she alleged that she was personally humiliated by Sonia Gandhi.[16] She declared that she was leaving the party due to the problems with party leadership.[16] In 2007, BJP-led NDA fielded her a canditate in elections for the Vice-President of India, which was won by Hamid Ansari[17]

Heptulla faced charges of having morphed a 1958 photograph to show her along with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in a publication of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). The controversial photograph was published in an ICCR publication titled 'Journey of a legend', on the life of Maulana Azad, a noted scholar and the country's first education minister. He was also the first chairperson of the ICCR and the publication came out when the council was headed by Heptulla. The photograph came with an introduction and showed a young Heptulla with the Maulana. The caption read "Najma Heptulla with Maulana Azad after her graduation". This gave the game away as official inquiries later revealed Heptulla had graduated in May 1958, whereas the Maulana had died on February 22, 1958. The publication was later withdrawn by the ICCR and its revised version is released but without the controversial photograph. Delhi High court had directed the CBI to investigate the case on a public interest litigation filed by ICCR Employees Association president.[18]

Under Nitin Gadkari as BJP President, she became one of the 13 vice-presidents of the BJP in 2010, where later when Rajnath Singh took over, she was made a member of the party's national executive.[19] Heptulla has been serving as the Minister of Minority Affairs in Prime minister Narendra Modi's cabinet since May 2014.[19] She said that minorities needed a level playing field in Indian society, but reservation is not the solution as it kills the spirit of competition.[19]


  1. ^ Parsai, Gargi (25 April 2012). "New stars in Rajya Sabha, spotlight on Mayawati". The Hindu (New Delhi). Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Najma Heptullah: Checkered career in Indian politics... Najma is the grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, prominent Indian freedom fighter who became the country's first education minister.
  3. ^ "The Times of India: Latest News India, World & Business News, Cricket & Sports, Bollywood". The Times of India. 
  4. ^ "Aamir Khan gifted Maulana Azad's speech to sister – The Times of India". The Times of India. 
  5. ^ Aamir Khan, the family guy – Hindustan Times
  6. ^ a b "Detailed Profile – Dr. Najma A. Heptulla – Members of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)". National Portal of India. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "Najma Heptulla's journey from Cong to BJP cabinet: all you need to know". Firstpost. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Najma Heptulla bereaved". The Hindu. 5 September 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  9. ^ NDA puts up Najma Heptullah for VP poll
  10. ^ "Alphabetical List of All Members of Rajya Sabha Since 1952". Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Former Deputy Chairmen of the Rajya Sabha". Rajya Sabha Official website. 
  12. ^ "President Najma Heptulla". Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  13. ^ TOI
  14. ^ "National : Najma Heptulla joins BJP". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 12 June 2004. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  15. ^ [1] Archived 24 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ a b "Sonia humiliated me: Heptullah - Lok Sabha Election news 2009 -". 23 February 2004. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  17. ^ "NDA puts up Najma Heptullah for vice-presidential poll". The Hindu. 22 July 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "CBI may book Najma in fake photo case". Hindustan Times. 3 August 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2007. 
  19. ^ a b c "Najma, The Lone Muslim Face in Modi Cabinet". The New Indian Express. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "exp" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Shyam Lal Yadav
Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
Succeeded by
M.M. Jacob
Preceded by
Pratibha Patil
Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
Succeeded by
K. Rahman Khan
Preceded by
K. Rahman Khan
Minister of Minority Affairs
Succeeded by