Maneka was born in a sikh family and her father Tarlochan Singh hails from the army. She is from Delhi and did her schooling at the Lawrence School in Sanawar. This was followed by graduation at Lady Shri Ram College for Women in Delhi wherein she pursued her ISC. Eventually, she became a model and did ads for Bombay Dyeing. She also studied German at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
It was at the age of 18 Maneka got married to Sanjay Gandhi and that introduced her to politics. She became part of youth congress and launched a political news monthly named Surya. She worked with her husband and brought congress to power. In between, she was blessed with a son Varun Gandhi. At the age of 23, Maneka lost Sanjay as he died in an air crash and Varun was just 100 days old.
In 1983 Maneka started her own party called Rashtriya Sanjay Manch and later on she merged it with Janata Dal and became the general secretary. The JD came to power and Maneka became the youngest minister of India. She had the Environment & Forests portfolio for two successive terms. She created the important National Zoo Authority and the Animal Welfare Board of India.
In 1999 Maneka became the minister of state for social justice and empowerment and was crucial for the project OASIS which made way for New Pension System. She also created the Animal Welfare Ministry and became its first minister. She is currently the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on government assurance. She is a hardcore environmentalist and animal rights leader as well.