A year gone: Remembering Sushma Swaraj

Vikash Aiyappa
·3-min read

New Delhi, Aug 06: Messages poured in from several quarters remember former external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, who passed on August 6 last year.

Swaraj passed away a year back at AIIMS at the age of 67. In the evening, hours before she had passed away, she had tweeted praying the decision of the government to abrogate Article 370, which was done on August 5 2019. "Narendra Modi ji - Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime," she had said.

Swaraj had a kidney transplant in 2016 and had opted out of contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

On August 3, Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu had said that he missed his dear sister, Sushma Swaraj on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. Dear sister Sushma, missing you a lot today," Naidu tweeted in Hindi and English, along with an old picture of the late BJP leader tying him a 'rakhi'. Swaraj''s daughter Bansuri also shared an old picture of her mother tying a ''rakhi'' to Naidu. "A sweet memory of Rakshabandhan," she captioned.

Swaraj was replaced by S Jaishankar as the foreign minister in 2019 after she opted out of contenting the elections due to health reasons. She left behind a legacy of an easily-accessible minister who helped the diaspora in distress with her revolutionary social media outreach.

Several path-breaking measures such as the passport infrastructure expansion and enhanced engagement with the East were the highlights of her tenure as the external affairs minister.

She was only the second woman to hold the portfolio after Indira Gandhi, who briefly kept the external affairs ministry under her while being the prime minister.

Swaraj had many firsts to her credit such as being the youngest cabinet minister in the Haryana government, first woman chief minister of Delhi and the first woman spokesperson for a national political party in the country.

She started her political life with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the RSS' student wing, and later joined the BJP.

She was the Information and Broadcasting Minister in the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1996 and got the Cabinet portfolio again after he led the BJP to power in 1998.

Always eager to take on a challenge, Swaraj contested against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Bellary in 1999 Lok Sabha polls. Though she fell short of votes, she grew in stature.

Long seen as a protege of veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, she also was the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha between 2009-14.

Swaraj, a law graduate who practised in the Supreme Court, was elected seven times as a member of Parliament and three times as a member of the legislative assembly.

Swaraj has also held the portfolios of Telecommunications, Health and Family Welfare, and Parliamentary Affairs in the Union Cabinet.

She was married to Swaraj Kaushal, a designated senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India who served as Governor of Mizoram from 1990 to 1993. Kaushal was also a Member of Parliament from 1998 to 2004.

Swaraj was also the recipient of the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award.

During her tenure as the external affairs minister, she handled several strategically-sensitive issues, including Indo-Pak and Sino-India relations.

Her role in resolving the prickly Doklam standoff between the Indian and Chinese sides will be remembered.

Though known to be a tough fighter in the political battlefield, Swaraj was admired and respected across party lines.

(With PTI inputs)

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