By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, August 6, 2019: Sushma Swaraj, member of Bharatiya Janata Party who gave a human face to the ministry of external affairs, died on August 6 in New Delhi. She was 66.
Swaraj had suffered cardiac arrests and was rushed to All India Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital. Attempts to revive her failed and she breathed her last around 11 pm, according to the hospital sources.
A star minister during the Modi government’s first stint, Swaraj played a key role in getting the release of several Indians, including two Catholic priests, abducted by terrorist groups in foreign countries.
They included Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar who spent eight months in the custody of suspected Taliban militants in Afghanistan in 2015. He returned to India on February 22 that year. Father Kumar had been director of Jesuit Refugee Service in Afghanistan for five years when he was abducted on June 2, 2014, in the Zendjan district of Herat province while visiting a school.
Sushma also took personal interest in the release of Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted by Islamic State militants on March 4, 2016, from a home for the aged and disabled run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen. Four Missionaries of Charity and 12 others were murdered in the attack. He was released on September 12, 2017.
Swaraj had helped resolve minor issues such as issuance of visa to the needy and getting relief to Indians in distress. She was credited with building an Indian human capital abroad and the response was an outpouring of support for the Modi government from the non-resident Indian community.
She did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and chose to sit out of the government this year on account of her health. She had a kidney transplant in 2016.
Swaraj was considered an important link between the government and the people. Many political observers viewed her as a challenger to Prime Minister Modi in the initial months of the government.
A few hours before her death, Swaraj had tweeted congratulating Prime Minister Modi regarding the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation bill in parliament.
“Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime,” her tweet read.
The prime minister took to twitter to condole her death. He tweeted, “Sushma Ji’s demise is a personal loss. She will be remembered fondly for everything that she’s done for India. My thoughts are with her family, supporters and admirers in this very unfortunate hour. Om Shanti.”
A nine-time parliamentarian followed by nearly 12.8 million people on Twitter, Sushma Swaraj became the youngest minister of a state in 1977. She was the first woman chief minister of Delhi.
She held the portfolios of information and broadcasting, and health in the National Democratic Alliance government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The Congress condoled her death and tweeted, “We are saddened to hear about the untimely demise of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Our condolences to her family and loved ones.”
A star minister during Modi government’s first stint, Sushma Swaraj did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and chose to sit out of the government this year on account of her health.
Sushma Swaraj was an important link between the government and the people. Many political observers had viewed Swaraj as a challenger to PM Narendra Modi in the initial months of the government.
However, she adjusted to the role and gave the external affairs ministry a human face for the first time. She was the troubleshooter for any Indian stuck anywhere abroad.
She took a personal interest in resolving minor issues like issuance of visa to the needy and getting relief to Indians in distress. She built an Indian human capital abroad and the response was an outpouring of support for the Modi government from the non-resident Indian community.
She was born Sushma Sharma born on February 14, 1953, at Ambala Cantt, Haryana, to Hardev Sharma and Shrimati Laxmi Devi. Her father was a prominent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member. Her parents hailed from Dharampura area of Lahore, Pakistan.
She was educated at Sanatan Dharma College in Ambala Cantonment and earned a bachelor’s degree with majors in Sanskrit and Political Science. She studied law at Punjab University, Chandigarh. A state-level competition held by the Language Department of Haryana saw her winning the best Hindi Speaker award for three consecutive years.
In 1973, Swaraj started practice as an advocate in the Supreme Court of India. Swaraj began her political career with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in the 1970s. Her husband, Swaraj Kaushal, was closely associated with the socialist leader George Fernandes and she became a part of George Fernandes’s legal defense team in 1975.
She actively participated in Jayaprakash Narayan’s Total Revolution Movement. After the Emergency, she joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.