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Najma for top UN post

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has decided that India will bid for top United Nations post of Secretary-General after Kofi Annan's term comes to an end after about two-and-a-half years. And the candidate will be Najma Heptulla who is deputy chairperson of the upper house of Parliament and has been India's unofficial goodwill ambassador to Middle Eastern countries.

This time round it is the turn of the Asian continent to send someone to the UNO as its head. Prime Minister Vajpayee has made his intentions clear to make a determined bid for the prestigious post of the world body, and the candidate will be Najma Heptulla who was earlier seriously considered for the post of vice president of India.

Najma Heptulla is currently heading the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), and is widely believed to be the best choice possible taking into consideration the worldwide reputation she enjoys as a parliamentarian. Thanks to her frequent tours and participation in international fora, Heptulla is a known face internationally, and enjoys an excellent rapport with almost all the top leaders in the Middle East. Besides, Najma Heptulla has been representing India in several diplomatic assignments for the last two decades under successive governments. Despite belonging to the Congress Party, Heptulla enjoys the trust of all political parties and has good contacts in many democratic countries.

In 1999 Najma Heptullah became the first woman to be unanimously elected as the president of Inter-Parliamentary Council of the IPU in its 110-year history. The IPU is the representative body of national parliaments in 138 countries.

Heptulla had been active for years in different committees and bodies of the IPU. Earlier, she served the IPU as vice-president and member of the executive committee.

A postgraduate in zoology and holding a doctorate in cardiac anatomy, Dr Najma Heptulla was a senior scientific fellow with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) before joining politics.. 

It was in 1980 that Heptullah decided to devote herself to full-time politics. Being a grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India's first education minister, she was well received in politics.

Being a kin of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was closely associated with the freedom movement, has stood her in good stead. It was Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, who personally monitored her academic career. Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, also an Indian prime minister, got her nominated to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament. Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi's son, during his tenure as prime minister, got her elected to the post of deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha. 

She entered into Parliament as a member of Rajya Sabha in 1980. At the age of 45, she became deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha in 1985. Currently, she is holding the post of deputy chairperson for the fourth term.

Affable and accessible, Heptulla can be suitably described as a politician with an academic bent of mind. She has to her credit several research papers published in foreign and Indian journals. She has written extensively on women’s issues. She is also a member of the advisory committee and editorial board of two research journals -- the Indian Journal of Zoology and the Journal of Anatomy. Besides, she has written a book titled India's Progress in Science and Technology, Continuity and Change.
Heptulla's personality typifies varied traits. Promotion of scientific knowledge, economic cooperation, international understanding and upliftment of women are special areas of her interest. Reading, writing, freelance journalism and playing sitar are her favourite pastime and recreation.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government of Atal Behari Vajpayee is seriously considering Najma Heptulla for the top UNO post, because it feels that India's standing among the comity of nations has taken a severe beating in the aftermath of anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat. Election to the UN post would require support from Muslim and Arab nations, who form a sizeable chunk in the Asian and African continents. A "Muslim" Najma Heptulla would most certainly be a good bet at this juncture. BJP has already nominated a "Muslim" for the post of president of India to whitewash its sullied image.

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