Grand-niece of eminent freedom fighter Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Najma Heptullah is the lone Muslim face in the Narendra Modi Cabinet. Once a prominent Congress member in the Rajya Sabha, she left the party in 2004 due to a strain in relationship with top party leaders for her close association with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-headed NDA Government and joined the BJP.
Heptullah, who was reelected to the Upper House five times between 1986 and 2012, was elected to a one-year term as the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha in 1985, and she again served in that post from late 1988 to mid-2004. Rising quickly in the BJP leadership, she was fielded by the party as a candidate for the post of Vice President against the UPA nominee, Hamid Ansari. She, however, lost the election.
When Nitin Gadkari became the President of the BJP in 2010, she was appointed as one of the 13 vice presidents of the party. She had almost lost prominence in the BJP when Rajnath Singh became new chief of the party. Heptullah was dropped from the post of BJP vice president and was made a member of the party's national executive.
An eminent writer, Heptullah has published several research papers in foreign and Indian journals and also contributed to many Indian and foreign magazines on issues relating to women and social development.
74-year-old Heptullah, has also worked as a member of the Advisory Committee and Editorial Board of 'The Indian Journal of Zoology' and 'Journal of Anatomy'.
Born in Bhopal, she is married and has three daughters. She holds both a Masters' of Science Degree in Zoology, and a Ph.D. in Cardiac Anatomy from the University of Denver.