The entire nation is in a state of shock following the sudden and untimely demise of India’s former External Affairs Minister and one of the most respected stateswomen, Sushma Swaraj. She passed away last night after suffering a cardiac arrest and was taken to AIIMS in Delhi at about 9:30 PM yesterday. Only hours before her demise she had tweeted, “Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.”
प्रधान मंत्री जी – आपका हार्दिक अभिनन्दन. मैं अपने जीवन में इस दिन को देखने की प्रतीक्षा कर रही थी. @narendramodi ji – Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) August 6, 2019
Tributes started pouring in soon after her sad demise. In a series of tweets, PM Modi stated, “A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end. India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor. Sushma Swaraj ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration for crores of people.”
A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end. India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor. Sushma Swaraj Ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration for crores of people.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 6, 2019
Political leaders across party lines have paid homage to the departed soul, showing the kind of respect she enjoyed in the political sphere. However, what set her apart was her connect with the ordinary citizens. Her interactive work style during her tenure as the External Affairs Minister and her ability to rescue people facing any issues abroad made her really popular among the ordinary citizens. This is going to be her true legacy. She was truly a leader of the masses and that sets her way above her counterparts.
Sushma Swaraj began her political career with the ABVP in the 70s and she became a part of George Fernandes’s legal defence team in 1975. She had actively participated in Jayaprakash Narayan’s Total Revolution Movement. After the Emergency, she joined the BJP and subsequently, she became a national leader of the BJP. At just 25 years of age, she became the youngest cabinet minister of north Indian state of Haryana. She also served as 5th Chief Minister of Delhi from 13 October 1998 to 3 December 1998.
Even as the Leader of Opposition during the UPA days, she proved her worth. The way she mounted stinging attacks on the then Congress-led government displayed her excellent oratory skills. The way she engaged in a poetic duel with the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a Parliamentary debate and actually succeeded in tearing into the then UPA government had showcased the high standards she maintained as a Member of the Parliament.
When the Modi government came to power for the first time in 2014, formulation of an effective foreign policy was seen as one of the topmost priorities. Sushma Swaraj, who by that time had already emerged as one of the senior-most leaders of the BJP, was, therefore, tasked with the important job. During her entire tenure, she was always up to the mark and never once disappointed. She conducted herself in a highly dignified manner, constantly working towards improving India’s diplomatic relations. No one can dispute the fact that the foreign policy pursued during the first tenure of the Modi government transformed the way the rest of the world looks at India. Sushma Swaraj, who was at the centre of this transformation, deserves to be credited for her relentless efforts.
More than the foreign policy, Swaraj emerged as one of those ministers under the Modi government who were instrumental in bringing about the innovation of using social media in order to help the ordinary citizens. Swaraj used social media to give the people an occasion to interact with the Ministry of External Affairs or its offices, embassies and high commissions, and help them through this.
Whether it was the issue of Doklam stand-off or the Indo-Pak tensions following the Pulwama terror attack, the senior cabinet minister during the previous Modi government made it a point to use all her experience and play her part as the External Affairs Minister responsibly. Her recent speech cornering Pakistan over terrorism at the Inaugural plenary of the OIC displayed her oratory skills and her ability to handle sensitive matters adroitly.
EAM Sushma Swaraj at OIC conclave: If we want to save humanity, we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to terrorists, to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist camps and stop providing shelter and funding to the terror organisations based in that country. pic.twitter.com/hlNZaAH7wl
— ANI (@ANI) March 1, 2019
Sushma Swaraj has had an illustrious political career. Even though her stupendous performance as the External Affairs Minister during the first tenure of the Modi government is bound to stand out as the highlight of her career, one cannot ignore the role she played when the BJP was still consolidating itself on a national basis. During the previous Vajpayee government, Sushma Swaraj was sworn in as the union cabinet minister of Information and Broadcasting with the additional charge of the Ministry of Telecommunications. During her tenure, she made plenty of improvements, including, declaring film production as an industry, which made the Indian film industry eligible for bank finance.
During her entire tenure, she was always up to the mark. She conducted herself in a highly dignified manner, constantly working towards improving India’s diplomatic relations. No one can dispute the fact that the foreign policy pursued during the first tenure of the Modi government transformed the way the rest of the world looks at India.
She was a parliamentarian par excellence. Her contribution as a foreign minister tends to overshadow the rest of her achievements. But one cannot dispute that when it came to oration both inside and outside the Parliament, Sushma Swaraj was among the best of her time. Sushma Swaraj was an era in herself and her passing away is literally the end of an era. The void that her demise has created will never be fulfilled.