New Delhi, Aug 7: Senior BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who brought a rare empathy and a human approach to India’s diplomacy, passed away on Tuesday night suffering a massive cardiac arrest. She was 67. Swaraj was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences around 9.30pm in a critical condition and was straight away taken to the emergency ward where a team of doctors attended to her but could not revive the astute politician, AIIMS sources said.
One of the most prolific politicians of India, Swaraj’s sudden demise triggered a wave of shock and grief with leaders cutting across political spectrum paying glowing tributes to the astute leader.
"A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end. India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor. Sushma Swaraj Ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration for crores of people," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Just hours earlier, Swaraj had tweeted to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Centre’s move to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the border state into two Union Territories secured Parliament’s approval.
"Narendra Modi ji - Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime," she had said.
Swaraj’s mortal remains were taken to her Delhi residence.
Her mortal remains will be kept from 12pm-3pm at the BJP headquarters on Wednesday for party workers and leaders to pay tributes, BJP working president JP Nadda said. Her last rites will be performed at the Lodhi crematorium with full state honours, he said.
As external affairs minister, Swaraj brought a sense of assertiveness in India’s diplomacy and played a key role in resolving the Doklam standoff with China in 2017.
She had also played a key role in India approaching the International Court of Justice challenging a Pakistani military court’s death sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Swaraj was known for prompt response on Twitter to address grievances of overseas Indians.
She had also played a key role in strengthening the BJP across the country in 1990s.
The former Union minister had a kidney transplant in 2016 and had opted out of contesting Lok Sabha polls earlier this year for health reasons. She is survived by her husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri.
"Extremely shocked to hear of the passing of Smt Sushma Swaraj. The country has lost a much loved leader who epitomised dignity, courage & integrity in public life. Ever willing to help others, she will always be remembered for her service to the people of India," President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted.
Swaraj had many firsts to her credit such as being the youngest cabinet minister in the Haryana government, first woman chief minister of Delhi and the first woman spokesperson for a national political party in the country.
She started her political life with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the RSS’ student wing, and later joined the BJP.
She was the Information and Broadcasting Minister in the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1996 and got the Cabinet portfolio again after he led the BJP to power in 1998.
Always eager to take on a challenge, Swaraj contested against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Bellary in 1999 Lok Sabha polls. Though she fell short of votes, she grew in stature.
Long seen as a protege of veteran BJP leader LK Advani, she also was the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha between 2009 and 14.
Swaraj, a law graduate who practised in the Supreme Court, was elected seven times as a member of Parliament and three times as a member of the legislative assembly.
Swaraj was external affairs minister from 2014 to 2019, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014, minister for information and broadcasting in Vajpayee government from 2000-2003. She was also chief minister of Delhi in 1998.