New Delhi: Najma Heptullah, former Congresswoman who joined the BJP almost a decade ago following reported differences with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is the grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, freedom fighter and a minister in the first Indian government after Independence.
Heptullah held several important positions in the Congress before switching ranks. She was a general secretary of the party and served for four terms in the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra. She also served twice as deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
In 2004, Heptullah in an interview to a TV channel accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi of "humiliating" her. She claimed that the Congress leadership of the time had moved away from the ideals of its former leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and her grandfather Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
Soon after, she joined the BJP and entered Rajya Sabha. The Congress decried the move as "political opportunism" on her part.
Heptullah entered Rajya Sabha for a second time in 2012.
In 2007, she contested for the post of vice-president against the current incumbent Hamid Ansari as the candidate of the National Democratic Alliance but lost.
Heptullah has a Master`s degree in zoology and a doctoral degree in cardiac anatomy from the University of Colorado at Denver, in the US.
In a chat with IANS Sunday, Heptullah said "Muslims should have no apprehension" regarding the Narendra Modi-led BJP government.