Sushma Swaraj: Hometown remembers ‘Ambala ki beti’

Sushma s house at BC Bazaar, where she spent her childhood. (A. Aggarwal)

KNOWN AS Ambala ki Beti in her hometown, former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who passed away at the age of 67 after a cardiac arrest Tuesday spent her childhood in BC Bazaar at Haryana s Ambala Cantonment, about 46 km from state capital Chandigarh.

Sushma s family was well-known in Ambala. Born in Palwal, she was brought up by her maternal grandfather, a popular medical practitioner in BC Bazaar, after her mother had passed away. She did her undergraduate studies from S D College with majors in Sanskrit and Political Science, and then her LLB from Panjab University.

A bright student, Sushma took a keen interest in debates and other competitions, said residents of the cantonment area who were close to her family. Her brother Dr Gulshan Sharma, who still lives in the same house where Sushma spent her childhood, said, She used to visit Ambala on Rakshabandhan every year. My niece Bansuri would come too. I shall miss my sister for all times to come.

Gauri, a domestic help working at Dr Sharma s home, said, We used to call her Bua ji (aunt). She was always very helpful. I once told her that I have two daughters and she told me that I must ensure they get a good education and also offered any help that I may require.

She was always inclined towards politics, said Shyam Bihari, a resident of BC Bazaar, who also knew the family. Health Minister Anil Vij, an incumbent MLA from Ambala Cantonment said Sushma was a leader with rare qualities .

I remember that she was elected as an MLA for the first time at the young age of 25. She later went on to become Haryana s education minister. She remained active in Haryana politics till 1990 before she moved to Rajya Sabha, he added.

Residents of Ambala also recalled how Sushma, while holding the portfolio of housing minister, carved out a Housing Board Colony in Ambala Cantonment.