It’s not often that you would see a Member of Parliament explaining the design of a street lamp with a built-in security camera or sharing her thoughts on smart grid and nuclear power with the involved science and finances. Even more surprising attribute of this Supreme Court lawyer and BJP MP from New Delhi constituency is the obsession to know almost everything.
A strong contender for the post of Delhi’s Chief Minister, Meenakshi Lekhi has played an important role in the announcement of INR 10,000 Cr fund for startups in Budget 2014 and is actively engaging with the entrepreneurial ecosystem to make the best possible utilization of this money.
Meenakshi Lekhi is an advocate at the highest constitutional court of India, a politician, national spokesperson of the party in power and a mother of two. She is focused, self-driven and inquisitive, but more importantly a humble personality.
HerStory caught up with her during her last visit to Bangalore to hear her inspirational journey and opinions. We also found out some interesting unknown facts about her.
From law to politics
After completing graduation from Hindu College in Delhi, Meenakshi joined Delhi University for a LL.B. degree and enrolled herself at the Bar Council of Delhi in 1990. She started practicing at the Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court, tribunals and forums on a regular basis. As a social activist, Meenakshi has been closely associated with the National Commission for Women, National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, SAKSHI, WTI, All India Women’s Conference, Sampurna & CSR on issues relating to women and children rights.
While giving her legal inputs to multiple NGOs, she began working for the ‘Swadeshi Jagran Manch’ (an economic wing of the Sangh Parivar). It was when Nitin Gadkiri became BJP president, he invited Meenakshi to join the party as the Vice-President of the ‘Mahila Morcha’.
She said in an interview,
My career profile was such that even while I was into law, I had to address the media on various cases. Hence, the party leaders were quite familiar with me. The seniors of the party (BJP) then gradually felt that I would do well as a spokesperson and hence I was taken up as one this year.
What drives her?
One can see the enthusiasm of a kid on Meenakshi’s face while she interacts with people. She has an ingrained curiosity to know more and it’s not restricted to any particular domain. Meenakshi puts up it simply, “Faith and connecting with people keep me going; my faith in my country and in the wisdom of the people who have shown faith in me (by electing me).”
Related read : Seven women ministers of the Indian government
Tough times and overcoming them
Meenakshi has experienced times when people did not understand the situation and formed their opinions which in turn led to serious consequences. According to her, these circumstances push you down and the only way to come out of it is to keep working. She says, “In the lows of your life, keep your head focused and let the work do the talking. People will eventually know what you’re all about.”
Values closest to heart
It is impossible to reach where Meenakshi is today without a certain set of values. What’s that one core value which defines her and keeps her actions aligned?
Meenakshi answers thoughtfully,
It’s truth for me. I just follow my heart and let my head do the work. I try to reach the solution and listen to what my heart tells me. This coupled with utmost honesty of purpose has taken me to places and where I am.
Sometimes numbers do not represent the real situationAccording to a report on gender diversity, only 4.9% of board directors in India are women while senior management also has 3-6% representation of women. Though there are 940 females for every 1000 males in the country, the ratio becomes skewed when it comes to employment. Highest participation of women is observed in labor force where they account for 36% while less than 23% are employed in organizations.
Numbers assist in telling a story, but according to Meenakshi, not in the above case. She spoke about gender disparity and condition of women in India, “We have to understand that women come from certain social values which overshadow the facts presented by numbers. Hence the real picture remains hidden.”
For example, a woman may chose teaching over a career in management just because she is more comfortable with that and doesn’t want to put extra burden on herself. Or at times, she might feel that it’s more important to be with her children. Let her be teacher or whatever she wants. The choice of career and way of living life is a personal decision and should be taken so.
Meenakshi believes that there should be no restriction in allowing women to work but at the same time the timings and nature of choice of work should be their choice. She says, “I want more women to join politics, but only if they wish. One cannot and should not force career and ambitions.”
Actions should be for greater good
Meenakshi has multiple role models as each one is associated with a specific trait or value. In politics and leadership, she follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She says,“He is a very decisive man and that’s the most important asset for a leader.” She believes in the philosophy of aligning one’s actions for greater good.
She is inspired by freedom fighter Bhagat Singh as well for the same reason.
What people don’t know about Meenakshi Lekhi!
Remember Meenakshi’s debate with Arnab Goswami where she gives him the taste of his own medicine? To her existing image of a prolific debater, additional characteristics of provocation and aggression were added to her personality from that day.
On meeting her, she came across as an extremely soft spoken and open hearted person. She is quite popular for being humble, down to earth and approachable. But there are a few things which are not known to many. She shares:
People don’t know that I’m a very laid-back person. I have a huge sense of humor which even becomes embarrassing at times. Work, people, family; I’ve light hearted moments at all the places.
Work-life balance myth
Meenakshi is juggling between multiple roles. She is a practicing lawyer at the Supreme Court, a Member of Parliament, BJP’s national spokesperson and above all a mother of two teenagers. She seemed to have played all her roles really well. So, I asked her secret behind maintaining this perfect work-life balance. She answered,
Life is never balanced. There will always be an imbalance between your work life and personal life. What really matters in such situations is how people who matter to you cope up with this imbalance. My family and husband have played a big role in my life.
A progressive thinking and a natural inquisitive mind drives Meenakshi all the time. Her straightforwardness may be mistakenly taken as arrogance but by all means she is one gem of a person and an able leader.
She signed off with a rather general yet meaningful message to HS readers, “Follow your dream. That’s the best thing you can do to yourself and no obstacle is big enough to stop you from doing that.”
What are your views about the work-life balance? Let us know in your comments.