Sushma Swaraj’s spirited ‘secularism’ speech will be long remembered

Always a people’s politician, she crafted a unique role for herself with acumen and nuance

GN Bureau | August 7, 2019


#Narendra Modi   #Secularism   #Politics   #BJP   #Sushma Swaraj  


During her long and enviable career in politics, Sushma Swaraj fashioned a one-of-a-kind place for herself: a spirited debater who could articulate the common man’s aspirations in the common man’s language – with grace, nuance and the auntie-next-door persona.

Swaraj died of a heart attack in New Delhi Tuesday evening, soon after her last tweet, congratulating the prime minister on the passage in parliament of the Jammu and Kashmir reorganization bill. “I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime,” she said. Her last words seem poignant now.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Sushma Ji’s demise is 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.”

Her career began as an activist with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Haryana, and soon she graduated to the Jan Sangh, the precursor to the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP). With her unusual oratory and debating skills, she won the assembly elections in 1977 and became a minister in Haryana when she was only 25 – arguably the youngest minister in India.

Swaraj became a Rajya Sabha member in 1990, but switched to the Lok Sabha in 1996, winning from South Delhi. This was when the BJP finally formed the government at the centre for the first time, and she served as minister of information and broadcasting. Though the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government lost the vote of confidence in 13 days later, Swaraj’s intervention in the debate over it would be long remembered.

In a fiery speech on June 11, 1996, she etched out her article of faith with more efficiency than most leaders of the right ever managed:

“We are called communal because we advocate the singing of Vande Mataram. Yes, we are communal. Because we fight for the respect of the national flag. Yes, we are communal because we demand the abolition of Article 370. Yes, we are communal because we advocate the idea of cow protection in India. Our definition of secularism is that a Hindu should be a good Hindu, a Muslim should be a good Muslim, a Sikh should be a good Sikh, a Christian should be a good Christian, and everyone should follow their religions while simultaneously respecting each other.”

Always in service of the party, she took up the unenviable task, when the BJP fielded her as Delhi chief minister shortly before the December 1998 elections it was bound to lose. It did, but she won hearts. Her next stop was Bellary in Karnataka, where she challenged Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the September 1999 Lok Sabha elections, making an issue of her foreign origins. Not only did she learn rudimentary Kannada to make a better rapport with people, but continued to learn the language long after losing the polls.

With the BJP returning to power at the centre, she again served as a union minister, holding charge of the information and broadcasting ministry as well as the health ministry. When the Congress-led UPA won in 2004, and retained power in 2009, and LK Advani resigned from the post of the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, it was Swaraj who rose to the position.

With Narendra Modi leading the BJP to power in 2014, many old-guard leaders were swept aside but Swaraj rose to become the external affairs minister. As a strong prime minister steered the foreign policy, Swaraj gracefully found a new role for herself, in looking after the nitty-gritties of the ministry while keeping a low profile. The rapport she created with people through Twitter, in India and abroad, especially in times of disasters and evacuation, and her readiness to reach out the needy with help earned her praise from all quarters. Gracefully, again, she refused to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, citing health reasons.

As Advani summed up in his tribute to her, “Sushmaji was a fine human being. She touched everyone with her warmth and compassionate nature.”

Comments

 

Other News

Thus ends the Chidamba-Run!

The arrest of Palaniappan Chidambaram, former union minister of home & finance, by the CBI, albeit after his much dramatic disappearance and reappearance, has brought an end to his long run from the arms of law. As a finance minister, being at the other end of the law, the former ministe

What Imran’s rant against RSS tells us about Modi’s Kashmir policy

An unintended consequence of the inversion of Article 370 and the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories is the curious revival of Pakistan’s interest in Indian history and sociology. For the first time in decades, a Pakistan prime minister made the Rasht

On a Personal note with actor Neeraj Kabi

Neeraj Kabi, a critically acclaimed self-taught actor, theatre director, and acting teacher, has worked in Odiya, Hindi and international cinema, theatre, television and web series. In 2014 he was honoured with the best actor award at the 4th Sakhalin International Film Festival for his role in the fil

Talking to Trump, Modi hits out at Imran’s anti-India rhetoric

Prime minister Narendra Modi has told US president Donald Trump that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s “incitement to anti-India violence” was not good for peace in south Asia. Modi and Trump had a telephonic conversation – their first since the Aug 5 move to chang

Paediatricians call for junking unhealthy food

As children are consuming more and more fast foods and sweetened beverages are becoming, leading to obesity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has come out with guidelines on such substances. The dietary guidelines under its nutrition chapter

Modi’s forward-looking I-Day speech lays down 5-year agenda

Contrast prime minister Narendra Modi’s first Independence Day speech in 2014 with his latest, the first in the second term, and you know the difference. His first speech was less about future and much about the basic needs like Swachch Bharat (clean India). His speech on Thursday, on the other hand,



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter