Queen of 'many firsts'

Queen of many firsts
Sushma Swaraj

Compassionate and warm, former External Affairs Minister Late Sushma Swaraj was one of the very few leaders to effectively use social media to connect with the Indian diaspora, thus winning admirers across the political spectrum

By Rhonita Patnaik

Published: Thu 15 Aug 2019, 12:04 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Aug 2019, 2:11 PM

Prolific orator and an outstanding Parliamentarian are just few of the attributes of late Sushma Swaraj who passed away on August 6 in New Delhi. She was 67.
The veteran BJP leader was also an avid Twiterrati whose tweets has made a difference in so many lives, and not just Indians abroad. The former External Affairs Minister of India stood a class apart from other politicians whose help reached far and wide to Indians in distress in any part of the world.
She would respond to every appeal for assistance, and make sure the Indian missions responded to the requests. This way, she gave the human touch to the Ministry of External Affairs, and won millions of admirers across the world, including many in Pakistan.
"Even if you are stuck on Mars, Indian Embassy there will help you," Swaraj famously tweeted in 2017 in response to a post from a person who said he was "stuck on Mars". The tweet generated over 37,000 likes and 15,000 retweets.
Ironically, just a few hours before she collapsed and died, former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had tweeted her thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for revoking Article 370 on Jammu and Kashmir. "Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime."
That was her last communication on the social media platform. She was active on tweeting about major happenings, though she decided against contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections or on joining the Narendra Modi 2.0 government due to health reasons.
She made her mark in her own way - connecting with the diaspora far and wide, and reaching out to help them. She would respond to every appeal for assistance, and make sure the Indian missions responded to the requests. In this way, she gave the human touch to the Ministry of External Affairs, and won millions of admirers across the world, including many in Pakistan.
Many Pakistani patients would appeal to her for medical visas via Twitter, and Swaraj would try to accommodate their requests. She would also connect with some of the Pakistanis who she helped get emergency medical visas. In 2017, she won admiration when she granted a year-long medical visa to a Pakistani girl Shireen Shiraz for an open-heart surgery.
Born on February 14, 1952 at Ambala Cantonment, Sushma earned a BA degree in Political Science. She studied LL.B. in Panjab University, Chandigarh. She married Swaraj Kaushal on July 13, 1975.
An advocate by profession, she began her political career as a student leader in the 1970s, organising protests against Indira Gandhi's government.
She twice became MLA from Haryana during 1977-1982 and 1987-1990, and once from Delhi in 1998.
As a Janata Party MLA in Devi Lal's government, she was the Cabinet Minister of Labour and Employment (1977-1979) - becoming the youngest ever Cabinet Minister in the country at 25 years of age. She joined the BJP in 1980. Under a combined Lok Dal-BJP government led by Devi Lal, she was the Cabinet Minister of Education, Food and Civil Supplies (1987-1990).
In 1980, 1984, and 1989, she unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Karnal in Haryana.
She was elected as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1990. In 1996, she was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha from South Delhi. She was Union Cabinet Minister of Information and Broadcasting in 1996, during the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. She was re-elected to the 12th Lok Sabha for a second term in 1998. Under the second Vajpayee government, she retained the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and had additional charge of the Ministry of Telecommunications from March 19 to October 12, 1998.
Swaraj left the Union Cabinet from October-December 1998 to serve as the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi. The BJP lost the assembly elections, and she returned to national politics.
Sushma returned to Parliament in April 2000 as a Rajya Sabha member. She was re-inducted into the Cabinet as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, from September 2000 until January 2003.
She was also made the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and held the post of Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. She was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in April 2006 from Madhya Pradesh. She served as the deputy leader of BJP in Rajya Sabha.
In 2009, Sushma won the election to the 15th Lok Sabha from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, by a record margin of 3.89 lakh votes.
She was made Deputy Leader of the Opposition in June 2009 in the Lok Sabha, and in December that year Sushma became the first woman Leader of the Opposition when she replaced Advani.
- rhonita@khaleejtimes.com

. Youngest Cabinet Minister of India at 25
. First woman spokesperson for a national party
. First woman Chief Minister of Delhi
. First woman Chief Minister from BJP
. First woman leader of the Opposition
. India's first full-time woman External Affairs Minister 

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