India bids farewell to Sushma Swaraj -- one of its finest leaders in decades

Swaraj died at AIIMS here late Tuesday night at the age of 67 after suffering a massive heart attack.

PTI
Tribute to Sushma Swaraj: Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has created a sand sculpture of the former external affairs minister at a beach in Puri on Wednesday.
The nation on Wednesday bid an emotional farewell to Sushma Swaraj, one of its most outstanding politicians, as her mortal remains were cremated with full state honours in the presence of top political leaders and hundreds of her grieving admirers.

Swaraj died at AIIMS here late Tuesday night at the age of 67 after suffering a massive heart attack, plunging the country in a state of grief and sparking an outpouring of condolences from across the world.

Wrapped in a tricolour, her body was brought to the Lodhi Road electric crematorium in a funeral procession from the BJP headquarters, where BJP workers and mourners gathered in large numbers to have a last glimpse of the leader.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, BJP president Amit Shah, veteran party leader L K Advani, senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot along with hundreds of people were present as the mortal remains were consigned to flames amid sounding of ceremonial bugle and strains of Vedic hymns in the background.



Swaraj's daughter Bansuri performed the last rites as tears rolled down her face. The prime minister was later seen comforting her and Swaraj's husband Swaraj Kaushal.
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Earlier in the day, President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Modi, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and scores of other leaders paid homage to Swaraj at her residence.

At the BJP headquarters here, many cried inconsolably and others fought back tears as senior party leaders, including BJP president Amit Shah and working president J P Nadda, covered Swaraj's body with the party flag.

Swaraj's husband and daughter saluted her and the mortal remains were later kept on a hearse decorated with flowers for the final journey.

Sushma Swaraj: A fiery leader and a mother figure
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Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj passed away on Tuesday evening after a heart attack. She was 67. Swaraj served as External Affairs Minister in the first Narendra Modi government. She opted out of contesting the Lok Sabha elections held a few months ago citing health reasons. Her doctors had advised her to keep away from dust and infection.

A diabetic, she had undergone a kidney transplant in December 2016. Though Swaraj's father was associated with the RSS, she began her political career with the Janata Party. At 25, she became the youngest minister when she joined the Devi Lal government in Haryana in 1977.

1977-97 Major Highlights
1977–82 Elected as Member, Haryana Legislative Assembly
1977–79 Cabinet Minister, Labour & Employment, Government of Haryana
1987–90 Elected as Member, Haryana Legislative Assembly
1987–90 Cabinet Minister, Education, Food & Civil Supplies, Government of Haryana
1990–96 Elected to Rajya Sabha (1st term)
1996–97 [15 May 1996 – 4 December 1997] Member, Eleventh Lok Sabha (2nd term)
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj passed away on Tuesday evening after a heart attack. She was 67. Swaraj served as External Affairs Minister in the first Narendra Modi government. She opted out of con..
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Swaraj was Information & Broadcasting Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

A timeline of her tenure in Atal Bihari's govt:
1996 [16 May - 1 June] – Union Cabinet Minister, Information & Broadcasting
1998–99 [10 Mar 1998 – 26 Apr 1999] Member, Twelfth Lok Sabha (3rd term)
1998 [19 Mar – 12 Oct] Union Cabinet Minister, Information & Broadcasting and Telecommunications (Additional charge)
1998 [13 Oct – 3 Dec] Chief Minister of Delhi
1998 [Nov] – Elected from Hauz Khas Assembly constituency of Delhi Assembly. Resigned from Delhi Assembly and retained Lok Sabha seat
2000–06 Member, Rajya Sabha (4th term)
2000–03 [30 Sept 2000 – 29 Jan 2003] Minister of Information and Broadcasting
2003–04 [29 Jan 2003 – 22 May 2004] Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs
Swaraj was Information & Broadcasting Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. A timeline of her tenure in Atal Bihari's govt: 1996 [16 May - 1 June] – Union Cabinet Minister, Information & ..
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One of the commendable performances was her deft handling of the media during the India-Pakistan Agra summit in 2001 which ended on a sour note.

Known for her oratorical skills, Swaraj was the archetypal face of the Indian woman. She took up women’s issues within the BJP as well as on public platform.

BJP’s decision in 2008 to have 33% reservation for women among the office-bearers was due to her efforts. She also courted controversy when she tried to enforce a dress code for Doordarshan anchors when she was I&B minister.

As health minister in the same Vajpayee government, Swaraj is credited with initiating the process of building four more AIIMS across the country on the lines of the one in Delhi.

Incidentally, she breathed her last in this hospital.
One of the commendable performances was her deft handling of the media during the India-Pakistan Agra summit in 2001 which ended on a sour note. Known for her oratorical skills, Swaraj was the arche..
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BJP veteran LK Advani oversaw her growth in the party and entrusted her with important responsibilities, including that of General Secretary and spokesperson.

When the RSS insisted that Advani step down from the post of Leader of the Opposition, after BJP’s second consecutive Lok Sabha defeat in 2009, he chose Swaraj to replace him in December, 2009.

The timeline for the successive years:
2006–09 [April 2006] Member, Rajya Sabha (5th term)
2009–14 [16 May 2009 – 18 May 2014] Member, 15th Lok Sabha (6th term)
2009-09 [3 Jun 2009 – 21 Dec 2009] Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha
2009–14 [21 Dec 2009 – 18 May 2014] Leader of the Opposition and replaced LK Advani
BJP veteran LK Advani oversaw her growth in the party and entrusted her with important responsibilities, including that of General Secretary and spokesperson. When the RSS insisted that Advani step ..
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Swaraj would often vociferously take on the UPA government, especially as LoP in the Lower House. She was especially active when the Manmohan Singh government was mired in the 2G spectrum allocation, Commonwealth Games and the coal allocation cases.

Swaraj led the BJP in forcing a washout of the winter session of Parliament in December 2010 over the appointment of PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner.
Swaraj would often vociferously take on the UPA government, especially as LoP in the Lower House. She was especially active when the Manmohan Singh government was mired in the 2G spectrum allocation,..
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When most BJP leaders began distancing themselves from Advani and started aligning with Narendra Modi post-2012, Swaraj stayed loyal to her political guru.

RSS always stood by her and this ensured that she was made the external affairs minister in 2014. She won hearts across the Indian diaspora in various countries redressing issues flagged by them on Twitter.
When most BJP leaders began distancing themselves from Advani and started aligning with Narendra Modi post-2012, Swaraj stayed loyal to her political guru. RSS always stood by her and this ensured t..
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Never one to shy away from fighting any political battle for her party, she readily accepted the BJP decision to make her the chief minister of Delhi in 1998, months before the assembly elections. She replaced Sahib Singh Verma who was facing dissensions within the party.

BJP lost the polls due to high onion prices. Swaraj famously contested against Congress leader Sonia Gandhi from Bellary in Karnataka in September 1999.

Though she lost, she won many hearts in the state and even learned Kannada during the campaign.

Swaraj served four terms in the Lok Sabha, representing South Delhi and Vidisha twice each. She was also elected to the Rajya Sabha thrice.
Never one to shy away from fighting any political battle for her party, she readily accepted the BJP decision to make her the chief minister of Delhi in 1998, months before the assembly elections. Sh..
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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Union ministers Harsh Vardhan and Ashwini Kumar Choubey, BJP working president J P Nadda were among hundreds of mourners who bid adieu to the outstanding politician.

Several world leaders, including Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and UNGA President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, condoled Swaraj's death as they remembered her as "dear sister" and an "extraordinary woman".

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"She (Swaraj) was a good friend of Bangladesh. With her death, Bangladesh has lost a good friend. Bangladesh will recall her contributions in taking the relationship between the two countries to a new height," Hasina said.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa referred to Swaraj as his "dear sister" and said she always called him 'my brother'.

The UNGA president said she was saddened by the news of Swaraj's death and described her as an extraordinary woman and leader who devoted her life to public service.

Swaraj was a tough fighter in the political battlefield and was admired and respected across party lines.



In a condolence letter to Swaraj's husband, Swaraj Kaushal, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi recounted her warm personal relationship with the senior BJP leader.

"Sushma Swaraj was a lady of extraordinary gifts, her courage, determination, dedication and ability manifest in every position she held."

"Above all, it was her warm personal qualities that brought a special lustre to her years in public and political life," Gandhi said.

Swaraj had unsuccessfully contested against Gandhi in 1999 from Bellary Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka, an election that attracted nationwide attention as it was the Congress leader's electoral debut.

BJP patriarch L K Advani, in his condolence message, said :"She touched everyone with her warmth and compassionate nature. I do not recall a single year when she missed bringing my favourite chocolate cake to me on my birthday."

Swaraj was considered Advani's protege. Advani said he had worked with her since the beginning of her "illustrious innings" in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

"And over the years, she became one of the most popular and prominent leaders of our party, in fact, a role model for women leaders," he said.

Political leaders across the country, irrespective of their party affiliations, paid glowing tributes to Swaraj.

As India's external affairs minister in the previous government, 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.

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. She was the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana government, the first woman chief minister of Delhi and the first woman spokesperson for a national political party in the country.
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