Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who extended a helping hand to many Indians in distress abroad and acquired a reputation as one of the most accessible ministers in the first term of the Narendra Modi government, died suddenly last night after a cardiac arrest. She was 67.
Swaraj, who was India’s first full-time woman foreign minister (Indira Gandhi held additional charge of the ministry when she was prime minister) suffered the cardiac arrest late in the evening and was immediately taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). She died after efforts to revive her failed.
“She was brought to the hospital after she had collapsed at home. She reached AIIMS emergency at about 09:35 pm,” said a hospital spokesperson. A team of doctors attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to revive her, but she couldn’t make it. “All resuscitative measures were taken but she could not be revived,” the spokesperson added.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, who was at the hospital, confirmed her death. In her last tweet, at 7.23 pm, Swaraj posted : Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.” It was a reference to the Lok Sabha effectively abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and converting the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh — realising what had always been a key objective of the BJP and its members.
Swaraj is survived by her husband, Swaraj Kaushal, and their daughter Bansuri, who are both lawyers by training, like the minister too was.
Swaraj, a nine-time member of Parliament, opted out of contesting the April-May general elections, making the announcement as early as November last year. To be sure, that Swaraj may not fight a direct election after undergoing a kidney transplant in December 2016 and been suffering from diabetes had been an open secret within the BJP.
Swaraj entered the Haryana assembly in 1977, and became a minister in the state cabinet at the age of 25. She was a former chief minister of Delhi and has been part of every BJP government at the Centre except the current one. Her electoral challenge to then Congress president Sonia Gandhi from Bellary, Karnataka, in 1999 was one of the most discussed electoral battles of the 1990s. Gandhi won the election by 56,000 votes.
She served as minister for information and broadcasting as well as health minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government from 1998 to 2004. She won the 2009 election to the 15th Lok Sabha from the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh and became Leader of Opposition