When a 16-year-old Tarkeshwari Sinha from Bihar joined the Indian freedom struggle

Tarkeshwari Sinha joined the Quit India Movement as a teenager, and then enjoyed an illustrious political career before fading into oblivion

Not much has been written about Tarkeshwari Sinha, the yesteryear politician from Bihar who holds the distinction of being the first woman to become a deputy finance minister. Her closeness to Morarji Desai was a talking point in the political corridors. However, she later quit politics and resorted to social work.


Early life

Born on December 26, 1926 in Bihar, Sinha was not aloof to the ongoing freedom struggle in the country. A student of Bankipore College in Patna, she joined the 1942 Quit India Movement at a young age of 16. The trials of Indian National Army soldiers at the Red Fort in 1945 attracted her a lot and she inclined towards politics. She was soon elected the president of Bihar students Congress. Sinha was among those who received Mahatma Gandhi in Nalanda, who was in the region to quell the Hindu-Muslim riots during the Partition.


At a time when women found it extremely difficult to make it to politics, Sinha was elected to the Lok Sabha in the first General Elections held in 1952. She won the Patna East seat after defeating veteran freedom fighter Sheel Bhadra Yajee, polling a total of 46.90 per cent votes.

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During debates in the Lok Sabha, she never shied away from questioning the ministers on various issues. Her presence did not go unnoticed as Jawaharlal Nehru inducted her into his cabinet. Sinha became the first woman deputy finance minister to Morarji Desai, who was heading the portfolio. Sinha never shied shy away from exhibiting her competence as a minister. It is said that she would barge into the rooms of government officials and bombard them with questions related to their respective departments. During the Congress split in 1969 that saw Indira Gandhi parting ways with the Syndicates, Sinha chose to remain with the old guard.

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When Congress candidate Dharamvir Sinha defeated the Janata leader in 1971 Lok Sabha elections, he was appointed the minister of information and broadcasting. However, Sinha’s political clout waned and she returned to the Congress in 1977. She contested on a Congress ticket from Begusarai but lost. Thereafter, she quit politics and took up social work.

She set up a hospital in Nalanda district wherein treatment was also free. Sinha, who also unsuccessfully contested a by-election from Samastipur in 1978 before withdrawing from politics, oversaw the construction of a road in her native village. Sinha died on August 14, 2007 in New Delhi.

As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom.

This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: inuthsocial@indianexpress.com


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