BJP's Sushma Swaraj passes away at 67

Published August 6, 2019
India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. — Reuters/File
India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. — Reuters/File

Former Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj passed away on Tuesday, according to reports by Indian media.

According to India Today, the 67-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader passed away "after suffering a heart attack in the evening". She was hospitalised at All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.

Swaraj was rushed in to AIIMS between 9:30pm and 10pm (India time) on Tuesday and was "straight away taken to the emergency ward" reported News 18, quoting Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawan. "She died a little while later," it added.

Swaraj, who had suffered from chronic diabetes, had also been admitted to AIIMS in 2016 when she suffered kidney failure.

The then senior most BJP woman leader, Swaraj became India's external affairs minister in 2014. She did not participate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections owing to health concerns, India Today reported, describing her as a "star minister" during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first term.

Swaraj had held office as Union minister between 1977 and 1980 in the Janata Party government, according to Scroll.in.

From 2000-2003 she was the minister for information and broadcasting, when the Atal Bihar Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government was in power.

During her decades-long career she had also served as New Delhi's chief minister and had served as the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014, Scroll.in reported.

The BJP leader, during her time in the external affairs ministry, granted visas to several individuals seeking medical treatment in India.

In 2017, an Egyptian believed to be the world’s heaviest woman, was granted a visa for weight reduction surgery.

That same year, an ailing two-and-a-half-year-old Pakistani boy and his parents were allowed to travel to India for treatment after the boy's father reached out to Swaraj on Twitter for a medical visa as his son had a heart complication which could not be treated in Pakistan.

The tweet was acknowledged by Swaraj, holding out the assurance that the child “will not suffer”.

'Giant in her own right'

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed her demise "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," he said.

In a series of tweets to pay tribute to Swaraj, Modi described her as "a prolific orator and outstanding Parliamentarian".

"She was admired and revered across party lines. She was uncompromising when it came to matters of ideology and interests of the BJP, whose growth she immensely contributed to," he wrote.

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said he was "shocked" to learn of her passing and was finding it "difficult to accept this news".

"Deeply shocked to learn of the passing away of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Difficult to accept this news. The whole nation grieves, the Foreign Ministry even more so," he said.

India's Congress party also extended its condolences on Swaraj's demise.

"We are saddened to hear about the untimely demise of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Our condolences to her family and loved ones," the party's official Twitter account said.

The party's former chief, Rahul Gandhi, said she was "an extraordinary political leader, a gifted orator and an exceptional Parliamentarian, with friendships across party lines".

"My condolences to her family in this hour of grief. May her soul rest in peace," he wrote.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, too, offered his condolences to the deceased minister's family, saying that he will "miss Twitter melee with her". He went on say that Swaraj "was a giant in her own right".

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