Poonam Mahajan was in her twenties when her father, a top BJP leader and former Union Minister Pramod Mahajan, was murdered by his brother in 2006. She joined politics at the instance of her late uncle, former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde, and quickly rose up the ranks. Today, she is one of the best-known BJP parliamentarians from Maharashtra. She won from the Mumbai North Central constituency in 2019.
Poonam Mahajan was born to Pramod and Rekha Mahajan on December 9, 1980. Although she was initially undecided about joining politics, the BJP offered her a chance after her father's death. It was not exactly a roaring start. In 2009, she was offered a chance to contest from the Ghatkopar (West) constituency in suburban Mumbai, a BJP stronghold. She lost to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena candidate Ram Kadam, polling 31,609 votes to his 56,575.
Poonam Mahajan, however, was far from discouraged. "My father had lost the Lok Sabha elections in 1984 but he bounced back to win the next one. He is my inspiration. I will work harder," she had said then.
She was true to her word. Five years later, the BJP gave Poonam Mahajan an opportunity to redeem herself in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Although she would have preferred the Mumbai North East constituency, considering that it was once represented by her father, it was handed to party colleague Kirit Somaiya at the last moment. She was moved to Mumbai North Central seat, pitted against Congress's Priya Dutt, the sitting parliamentarian and daughter of late Bollywood actor Sunil Dutt.
Although critics declared it a conspiracy to end Poonam Mahajan's career, she took on the challenge and defeated the invincible Priya Dutt by a margin of 1.86 lakh votes.
In 2016, Poonam Mahajan was appointed the president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha -- the party's youth wing -- a distinction held by the likes of senior leaders Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti and her own father in the past. Today, she enjoys the trust of both BJP chief Amit Shah and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Poonam Mahajan has often hit the headlines over controversial statements. In the midst of a farmer agitation in Maharashtra last March, she invited criticism by alleging that they were being "misguided by Urban Maoists". A few months ago, she compared Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar to "Shakuni Mama" from the Mahabharata for "poking his nose into everything" -- spurring posters by the opposition party referring to her father's murder. On another instance, she referred to the grand opposition alliance -- or mahagatbandhan -- as a maha-thug-bandhan (alliance of thugs).
She lives in Mumbai with her husband, businessman Anand Rao Vajendla, and two children. "In 2014, there was a Modi wave. But in 2019, the country will witness a tsunami in his favour, and the Mahamilawat (in a jibe at the opposition's grand alliance) will be completely uprooted," she had said recently.