NEW DELHI: Sushma Swaraj’s sudden death at AIIMS, Delhi on Tuesday night after a massive cardiac arrest stunned not just BJP leaders but many across the political spectrum. She was 67. Poetess, lawyer, politician — Swaraj wore many hats. Her humane approach as foreign minister in the first term of the Narendra Modi government separated her from the crowd.
Swaraj came from a Socialist background to join the BJP’s earlier avatar, Jan Sangh, just after Emergency was lifted. When she was just 25, she became a cabinet minister in Haryana, the youngest ever to do so.
Swaraj’s oratorical skills saw her emerging as frontline spokesperson of the BJP during the 1990s when the party began making a strong mark in Indian politics, with L K Advani charting a hardline Hindutva course with the Ram temple issue. Swaraj was Advani’s protege along with the likes of Pramod Mahajan and Govindacharya.
As fate would have it, Swaraj replaced Advani as leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha after the RSS ushered in a generational change in the party’s leadership. With Arun Jaitley leading the charge in the Rajya Sabha, Advani’s two pupils turned the political heat on the Manmohan Singh-led government during 2009-14.
True to the mark of a mass leader, Swaraj won seven Lok Sabha elections, while opting out of electoral politics in 2019 polls on health grounds.
Jaitley once described Swaraj as a brave politician, saying she set high standard for those in public life by disclosing her health conditions fully. That was when both her kidneys had failed. Afterwards, she received a transplant and recovered.
Within the BJP, Swaraj was indeed seen as someone who always took challenges. She happily accepted the task to become chief minister of Delhi when the BJP struggled for leadership ahead of 1998 Assembly polls. She also took the challenge to contest against Sonia Gandhi from Bellary in Karnataka and she even learnt Kannada to connect with the people.
Known to mine Twitter for hours, Swaraj brought the human face of the MEA to people in distress.
Within the BJP, Swaraj fiercely protected her followers. She was seen in the party vocally airing her views, including in Parliamentary board meetings. In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Swaraj was seen a claimant for Prime Ministerial face of the outfit, which ultimately went to Narendra Modi. Yet, she joined the Modi Cabinet and confined herself to the task of leading the Ministry of External Affairs.
Known to mine Twitter for long hours, Swaraj brought the human face of the ministry to people in distress. Soon, she had many admirers in Pakistan with Swaraj helping out Pakistani patients getting Visa for medical treatments in India.
With life snuffed out at an early age, Indian politics has indeed lost a magical woman leader who inspired many to join politics.
Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia expressed deep condolences on the demise of Sushma Swaraj. Baijal said Swaraj will be be missed by all. “Extre-mely saddened to learn about Sushmaji’s tragic untimely departure. A bold, visionary and humane leader, she will be missed by all. May her soul rest in eternal peace,” Baijal tweeted. Sisodia said her contribution to politics will be immortal.
Delhi loses 3 ex-CMs
With Swaraj's demise, Delhi lost three former chief ministers in less than a year. Swaraj, who was the chief minister of Delhi for a brief period in 1998, passed away on Tuesday night due to cardiac arrest. Three-time CM and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit passed away in July this year due to cardiac arrest. Madan Lal Khurana, who was chief minister from 1993-96, passed away in October last year.