Najma Akbar Ali Heptulla (born 13 April 1940) is an Indian politician and Governor of Manipur and the Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, and former vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and a six time member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, between 1980 and 2016, 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.[3]

Najma Heptulla
Najma A. Heptulla presenting the Badalte Qadam Award to the Cinematographer, Doordarshan, Ms. Jayshree Puri, at the Best Achievers Award Ceremony, organised by the Child Care & Welfare Foundation, in New Delhi (cropped).jpg
16th Governor of Manipur
Assumed office
24 July 2019
PresidentRamnath Kovind
Prime MinisterNarendra Modi
Chief MinisterNongthombam Biren Singh
Preceded byPadmanabha Acharya
In office
21 August 2016 – 26 June 2019
Chief MinisterOkram Ibobi Singh
Nongthombam Biren Singh
Preceded byV. Shanmuganathan
Succeeded byPadmanabha Acharya
11th Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia
Assumed office
26 May 2017[1][2]
Vice ChancellorTalat Ahmad
Najma Akhtar
Preceded byMohammad Ahmed Zaki
Minister of Minority Affairs
In office
26 May 2014 – 12 July 2016
Prime MinisterNarendra Modi
Preceded byK. Rahman Khan
Succeeded byMukhtar Abbas Naqvi
Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
In office
25 January 1985 – 20 January 1986
Preceded byShyamlal Yadav
Succeeded byM. M. Jacob
In office
11 November 1988 – 10 June 2004
Preceded byPratibha Patil
Succeeded byK. Rahman Khan
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
In office
3 April 2012 – 20 August 2016
ConstituencyMadhya Pradesh
In office
In office
Personal details
Born (1940-04-13) 13 April 1940 (age 79)
Bhopal, Bhopal State, British India
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party
(since 2004)
Other political
Indian National Congress
Akbar Ali Akhtar Heptulla
(m. 1966; died 2007)
ResidenceRaj Bhavan, Imphal
Alma materVikram University

She is a second cousin to actor Aamir Khan and grand niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.[4][5][6] 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 and was replaced by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in July 2016.

Early life and backgroundEdit

Najma was born as Sayyida Najma bint Yusuf on 13 April 1940 in Bhopal, Bhopal State, in present Madhya Pradesh to Sayyid Yusuf bin Ali AlHashmi and Sayyida Fatima bint Mahmood.[7] She is a Dawoodi Bohra Ismaili Shia Gujarati Muslim with Arab ancestry, as traced by her ancestral roots in the Arabian peninsula as well as Gujarat state.[7] She did her schooling at Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya (MVM) Bhopal, and obtained an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. degree, both in Zoology (Cardiac Anatomy) from Vikram University, Ujjain.[7][8][9]

She married Akbar Ali Akhtar Heptulla in 1966, and has three daughters.[8] Her husband, Akbar Ali Akhtar Heptulla, a manpower consultant, was instrumental in the establishment of the Patriot newspaper in the 1960s. He died on 4 September 2007, in New Delhi at the age of 75.[10]


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.[11] Since 1980, she has been a member of the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra for four terms at 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998 as Congress candidate.[12] Najma was the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha from January 1985 to January 1986 and from 1988 to July 2004.[13]

Heptulla was nominated to head the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, ICCR. 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.[14]

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.[7][15][16] Media sources reported that she left the Congress apparently due to a strain in relationship with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.[17] Later she alleged that she was personally humiliated by Sonia Gandhi.[18] She declared that she was leaving the party due to the problems with party leadership.[18] In 2007, BJP-led NDA fielded her a candidate in elections for the Vice-President of India, which was won by Hamid Ansari[19]

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.[20]

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.[21] Heptulla served as the Minister of Minority Affairs in Prime minister Narendra Modi's cabinet from 26 May 2014[21] to 12 July 2016.[22] 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.[23]


  1. ^ "Latest News: Latest Latest News - Latest Live News Online - News18". News18. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Najma Heptulla appointed as new Jamia Millia Islamia Chancellor - Free Press Journal". 29 May 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  3. ^ Parsai, Gargi (25 April 2012). "New stars in Rajya Sabha, spotlight on Mayawati". The Hindu. New Delhi. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  4. ^ "The Times of India: Latest News India, World & Business News, Cricket & Sports, Bollywood". The Times of India.
  5. ^ "Aamir Khan gifted Maulana Azad's speech to sister – The Times of India". The Times of India.
  6. ^ "Aamir Khan, the family guy – Hindustan Times". Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Mohan, Archis (13 July 2016), "Why Najma Heptulla, G M Siddeswara were forced to quit Modi Cabinet", Business Standard
  8. ^ a b "Detailed Profile – Dr. Najma A. Heptulla – Members of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)". National Portal of India. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Najma Heptulla's journey from Cong to BJP cabinet: all you need to know". Firstpost. 26 May 2014.
  10. ^ "Najma Heptulla bereaved". The Hindu. 5 September 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  11. ^ "NDA puts up Najma Heptullah for VP poll". Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  12. ^ "Alphabetical List of All Members of Rajya Sabha Since 1952". Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Former Deputy Chairmen of the Rajya Sabha". Rajya Sabha Official website.
  14. ^ "President Najma Heptulla". Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  15. ^ "NDA puts up Najma Heptullah for VP poll", The Times of India, 22 June 2007
  16. ^ "National : Najma Heptulla joins BJP", The Hindu, Chennai, 12 June 2004
  17. ^ [1] Archived 24 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ a b "Sonia humiliated me: Heptullah - Lok Sabha Election news 2009 -". 23 February 2004. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  19. ^ "NDA puts up Najma Heptullah for vice-presidential poll". The Hindu. 22 July 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  20. ^ "CBI may book Najma in fake photo case". Hindustan Times. 3 August 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2007.
  21. ^ a b "Najma, The Lone Muslim Face in Modi Cabinet". The New Indian Express. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Najma Heptulla, G M Siddeshwara resign from Modi Cabinet", India Today, 12 July 2016
  23. ^ "Najma rules out reservation for Muslims, says it's not the answer". Hindustan Times. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.

External linksEdit

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
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi
Minister of State with
Independent Charge
Preceded by
V. Shanmuganathan
Governor of Manipur
21 August 2016 – Present
Succeeded by