Tears flow as nation pays tributes to people’s leader Sushma Swaraj

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, 7 August 2019) – An emotional Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying tributes to former union minister Sushma Swaraj, who had won millions of hearts in the country and abroad by putting people at the core of Indian diplomacy.

Sushma Swaraj was brought home from hospital last midnight when doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences could not resuscitate her. Swaraj, who had tweeted a ‘thank you’ note to Prime Minister Narendra Modi hours earlier, had suffered a massive cardiac arrest and had been rushed to the hospital around 9.30 pm. She was 67.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Amit Shah, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, Sonia Gandhi and envoys are among the dignitaries who have paid tributes to the veteran leader at her residence. Sushma Swaraj has been taken to the BJP headquarters to let party workers and others pay their last respects. She will leave for her last journey to the Lodhi Road crematorium through the streets of national capital Delhi for her last rites.

A visibly emotional PM Modi, who was among the early visitors to her house, was seen consoling her husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri, after paying his tributes. As Swaraj Kaushal spoke, tears welled up in the prime minister’s eyes.

Former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and daughter Pratibha broke down as they entered the room where Sushma Swaraj was. Advani had mentored her for decades. Minutes before driving down to her house, Advani had penned an emotional note to recall “the promising young activist” he had inducted in her team, who turned out to be one of the most popular and prominent leaders of the party.

The tributes also flowed freely on social media where Sushma Swaraj had millions of ardent admirers and followers. Sushma Swaraj had deftly turned Twitter into a platform to empower to reach out to her with distress messages. She mostly responded swiftly, and effectively. She would often order officials to take steps to address grievances.

Vikas Swarup, a diplomat who worked closely with her before his elevation as the country’s envoy to Canada, tweeted: “Her legacy of making MEA a “people-centric” Ministry will live on forever.” India leg-spinner Poonam Yadav called her a people’s leader taken away too soon. “She was a people’s leader. A rare politician taken away too soon. Rest in peace!” Poonam wrote.

Hours before her death, Swaraj had hailed PM Modi after Home Minister Amit Shah got a move to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir cleared by Parliament.

“I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime,’ Sushma Swaraj had tweeted. A few hours later, she invited top lawyer Harish Salve over for tea on Wednesday.

As foreign minister in the first edition of the Modi government, Swaraj had engaged Harish Salve to represent India at the International Court of Justice to stop Kulbhushan Jadhav’s the death sentence ordered by a Pakistani military court. Salve had only agreed to take Re 1 as a fee from Sushma Swaraj. Salve told news channel Times Now that she told him to come over to take the Re 1 fee.

She died a little over an hour later.

Swaraj had been the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana, was elected seven times as a member of parliament, and also had a short stint as chief minister of Delhi. The party had parachuted her to the national capital because the Delhi BJP’s two veterans were too busy fighting. She could not turn the tide and lost the election. Sheila Dikshit won, and continued to rule the city for the next 15 years.

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