New Delhi: An affable leader, an able administrator and an impressive orator — Sushma Swaraj was one of the most prominent faces of the BJP who immensely contributed to party’s growth and never shied away from taking challenges.
Her rise in politics coincided in some ways with the growth of BJP as a party. She left a mark in roles as a union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, as leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014, and as External Affairs Minister in the first term of Narendra Modi government.
A four-time member of Lok Sabha and three-time of Rajya Sabha, she did not contest in 2019 Lok Sabha elections citing her bad health.
The 67-year-old accepted tough challenges which helped the BJP break new grounds. She contested the 1999 Lok Sabha election from Bellary in Karnataka against then Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
She lost the contest in the Congress stronghold by a relatively small margin of about 55,000 votes but left a mark with her felicity of language and ability to connect with voters.
As the External Affairs Minister from 2014-19, Sushma Swaraj helped implement the foreign policy of Narendra Modi government which witnessed an expansion in engagement with the Indian diaspora across the world.
With Pakistan failing to reciprocate India’s gestures, Swaraj made it clear that talks and terror cannot go together. She effectively handled diplomacy during the surgical strikes, aerial strikes and the Doklam stand-off with China.
Her efforts to help the diaspora in their hour of need were widely noted and appreciated and she brought the ministry closer to the citizens. She also worked for the promotion of Hindi.
Sushma Swaraj was chief minister of Delhi for about two months in 1998 to spearhead the party’s challenge in the assembly polls. After BJP lost the polls, she returned to national politics.
As the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha during Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II government, the BJP leader was unsparing in her attacks and helped build momentum against the Congress.
After the 2004 parliamentary elections when Congress-led UPA was poised to form a government, Swaraj had threatened to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi became the prime minister due to the foreign origin of the Congress leader.
Steeped in party ideology, Swaraj was sharp with her political punches. She became the country’s youngest Cabinet minister in Haryana government when she was only 25.
Swaraj won her first election in 1977 as a member of the Janata Party. She was twice elected as MLA and served as a Labour and Employment Minister (1977-79) and Education, Food and Civil Supplies (1987-90).
As a member of BJP, Sushma Swaraj grew in the party ranks and became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1990. She had friends across the political spectrum and was held in high regard by leaders of various parties.
She was Information and Broadcasting Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government (September 2000-January 2003) and Health and Family Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs (January 2003-May 2004).
Born on February 14, 1952, at Ambala in Haryana to a middle-class family, she did law from Panjab University Chandigarh, and in 1973 registered as an advocate. She married to lawyer Swaraj Kaushal, who later served as governor of Mizoram.
She was active till her last breath and her last tweet came on Tuesday after Parliament passed the bill to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir and resolution to repeal Article 370, a long-pending ideological demand of the party and its predecessor Jan Sangh.
“Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime,” she tweeted hours before she passed away at AIIMS Delhi.