The Early Years
“Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living!”
– Albert Einstein
If there is one word that encapsulates the life and work of Smt. Vasundhara Raje from her childhood till the present, it is ‘service’ – service to the nation, service to the poor, service to her people. There are some who need to go out of the way to imbibe this spirit of service and dedication towards people but for Vasundhara Raje, it was something she was born with. On 8th March 1953, Smt. Vasundhara Raje was born in the city of Mumbai. Vasundhara Raje’s parents were extremely distinguished individuals, who were known for their contribution to Indian society. Her father, His Highness late Maharaja Jivaji Rao Scindia was the last reigning Maharaja of Gwalior, a princely state in the heart of India before Independence. Her mother, Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia went on to become one of the most prominent political leaders in post-Independence India who was known for her simplicity, ideological commitment and dedication towards the poor. Spread through 40 years, she served as Member of Parliament for a record eight times representing Guna in Madhya Pradesh. It was in this atmosphere of service, patriotism and commitment towards building the Nationthat Vasundhara Raje was brought up.
She is the third child born to His Highness Jivaji Rao Scindia and Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia. Her eldest sister Smt. Usha Raje married into one of Nepal’s most distinguished families and is based there. Her elder brother the late Shri Madhavrao Scindia emerged as one of India’s most successful political leaders until his untimely demise in 2001. Her younger sister Smt. Yashodhara Raje serves as the Member of Parliament from Gwalior representing the BJP.
Right from the early days, Vasundhara Raje’s visionary parents ensured that their children got quality education and grew up to become fine individuals dedicated to service of the people, especially the poor. Vasundhara completed her schooling at the Presentation Convent, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. Thereafter she graduated with Honors in Economics and Political Science from Sophia College, University of Mumbai. Vasundhara Raje’s close relations with Rajasthan began after her marriage into the erstwhile Royal Family of Dholpur, in the eastern part of Rajasthan. This is a bond that has continued and grown stronger as time has progressed.
The Early Years: Struggle, Success and Career in Politics
Despite hailing from a privileged background, Vasundhara Raje’s life has been one of immense struggle and perseverance but in every chapter of her life, she has only emerged stronger. She lost her father at a tender age but the strong values and influence of her mother always remained a rock of support for Vasundhara and her siblings.
Considering the atmosphere she was growing up in, politics and service came naturally to a young Vasundhara. During the 1960s and the 1970s she witnessed her mother rise in ranks in Indian politics resisting the tyrannical forces of the Congress Party. Rajmata Vijayaraje was arrested during the Emergency as the nation protested against the high handedness of those in power.
Vasundhara Raje’s first brush with politics came in 1984 when she was made a Member of the National Executive of the newly formed Bharatiya Janata party (BJP). A year later in 1985, she was appointed as the Vice President of the Yuva Morcha, Rajasthan BJP. The same year she was elected a member of the 8th Rajasthan Assembly from Dholpur. Yet again, dedication and the urge to serve won over all perceived hostilities.
As a union minister minister Smt. Vasundhara Raje’s stint as Minister in the Union Council of Ministers: The nation elected the 12th Lok Sabha in March 1998 and the BJP got a thumping mandate of 182 seats. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister of the nation. Vasundhara was yet again chosen from Jhalawar but this victory was different from the previous ones. In March 1998 she was not only elected as a MP but was also sworn in as the Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, a department that was held by the Prime Minister himself. Thus, Smt. Vasundhara Raje got the wonderful opportunity of serving as a Minister and working very closely with Shri Vajpayee.
As a Minister of State for External Affairs, Vasundhara led the External Affairs Ministry in carrying forward the foreign policy to facilitate the creation of an external environment of peace, prosperity, security and development. As a Minister, VasundharaRaje had the opportunity to visit various countries and strengthen their relations with India. She also received several delegations from across the world.
In 1998 the BJP Government at the Centre did what no previous Government had done. The Prime Minister ordered the testing of India’s nuclear capabilities. India was now a nuclear power and the nation rejoiced this bold move. The world community, however, perceived it very differently. The International community imposed sanctions on India. At such a delicate time, Smt. Vasundhara Raje became the voice of India’s Foreign policy, expressing India’s stand and interests with courage and at the same time engaging with large sections of the international community. The fact that the International community withdrew sanctions very soon was indicative of the hardwork put in, among many others, by the External Affairs Ministry.
The second Vajpayee ministry resigned in April 1999, 13 months after it was elected. Despite repeated attempts by opportunist forces to come together, no other party could garner the required numbers to form the Government and the nation headed again towards another election.
When the nation voted towards the end of 1999, they reposed their faith in the BJP one more time. Smt. Vasundhara Raje won from Jhalawar and the Council of Ministers took oath under Shri Vajpayee yet again. As for Vasundhara Raje, now a five time MP, she took oath as a Minister of State with Independent Charge. The portfolios she was allotted were Small Scale Industries and Agro & Rural industries and she assisted the Prime Minister in the DoPT (Personnel and Training), Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Space.
With a Budget of approximately $300 million, the Ministry of Small Scale Industries operated various programmes and schemes for small enterprises. As the Minister concerned, Smt. Vasundhara Raje took several initiatives to help the Indian small-scale sector, to make small industries competitive in the globalized economic environment. Various new schemes such as the Credit Guarantee Scheme, Credit Rating Scheme for enhancing access of credit to SMEs, Credit Linked Technology Upgradation Scheme for modernizing technology and Market Development Assistance Scheme for support marketing were launched during her tenure and proved to be immensely successful. As the Minister for Small Scale Industries, Vasundhara Raje initiated the phased removal of the reservation policy providing for reservation of certain items to be manufactured only by small industries to encourage greater competitiveness within the small-scale sector.
While assisting the Prime Minister in the other portfolios Vasundhara Raje was directly involved in providing leadership and direction to the bureaucracy of the country. In order to enhance accountability and transparency, the NDA Government drafted a bill that later became the foundation of the Right of Information Act. Vasundhara Raje was part of this historic process.
As leader of opposition In the elections in 2008, BJP in Rajasthan won 78 seats, just 18 seats less than the Congress party’s tally of 96 seats out of 200 member State Assembly. The Congress Party formed a coalition government and she was elected as Leader of Opposition but after a while, Bhartiya Janata Party ( BJP) required her to function as a General Secretary and in this period, she looked after organizational matters of the party. Since March 2013, she was re- elected by the BJP party legislators as ‘Leader of Opposition’ in the Legislative Assembly.
Upholding the traditions of parliamentary democracy in India she had been giving direction to the legislators of the party to act responsibly and with probity, in and out of the Assembly and act as a watchdog over instances of mis-governance, inaction on part of the administration to ensure that the fruits of development reach the masses and maintain regular touch with people from all social strata. In her role as Leader of opposition the media, the ‘bush fire’ intelligence and provisions such as the Right to information Act are the tools which she has put to effective use to ensure that the development agenda set by her government are not compromised with and people are not made to suffer. Not being in power has responsibilities and greater challenges of its own. Constant public contact with the aim of understanding and empathizing with their problems and solving them, to the extent feasible under the circumstances are extremely important and Smt. Vasundhara Raje has discharged her arduous responsibilities accordingly.
As the Chief Minister, Rajasthan visited Davos, Switzerland for “ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM”
As the Chief Minister, Rajasthan visited USA
The World Economic Forum, 2006 As the Chief Minister, Rajasthan Visited Davos, Switzerland For “Annual General Meeting Of The World Economic Forum” The World Economic Forum, 2006 Davos, Switzerland
As the Minister of State visited Singapore in June 1998
As The Minister of State headed the Indian delegation for the ministerial meeting. Expressed Indian views on priorities of foreign policies and relevance of nuclear tests. Minister of State also met the President of Columbia.
Visited Egypt in connection with G-15 meet, conducted dialogue with Foreign Minister Amre Mosse, signed an MoD on small Industries co-operation.
- 1985-89: Member, 8th Rajasthan Legislative Assembly
- 2003 – 2008: Member, 12th Rajasthan Legislative Assembly
- 2008 onwards : Member, 13th Rajasthan Legislative Assembly