Gifted with wit, both quick and sharp, Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition is a political force to reckon with. In a career spanning over three decades, Sushma has covered herself with laurels such as being the youngest Cabinet Minister (at age 25) and the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi (a very brief stint, but nevertheless a feather in her cap).
Having graduated with majors in Sanskrit and Political Science, she went on to study LLB and became a practising lawyer in the Supreme Court (she’s also married to a senior Supreme Court Advocate, Swaraj Kaushal and has one daughter. Little else is known about her personal life.). Sushma moved into politics in the 1970s with Akhil Bharitya Vidyarathi Parishad (ABVP) aka All Indian Student Council, the right wing student organisation of the RSS Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). Her choice of platform to enter politics is of little surprise since her father was a prominent RSS member.
Mid-1970s saw the darkest days of India with the Emergency. During this time Sushma joined the Janta Party and actively campaigned against the Emergency. Born in 1953, she was at that time still in her early 20s and a firmly established idealist. She had embarked on a significant career in which she was destined to get both, recognition and respect.
She has won Lok Sabha elections (note the plural), Rajya Sabha elections, became a Union and Cabinet Minister…and made an impact in whichever portfolio she handled. In her short-lived charge (it was just a few months) of Information and Broadcasting, Sushma freed the multi-crore film industry from the clutches of the underworld by granting it the status of an industry. This meant that bank financing became available to the film world as an option. As Union Health Minister, she set up six AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) at Bhopal (MP), Bhubaneshwar (Odisha), Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Patna (Bihar), Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Rishikesh (Uttrakhand).
She has long been acknowledged as one of the most astute parliamentarians in the country. The single biggest acknowledgement of her credentials came from her party when they fielded her name against Sonia Gandhi from Bellary, Karnataka. She performed extremely well, losing by a marginal 7% after a mere 12 days of campaigning. (In 2009 she won from the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency, Madhya Pradesh by the highest margin of over 4,00,000 votes).
Fiery and quick in her speech, there was little to accuse her with till the mining scam. When the mining scam started unravelling, initially Sushma firmly stood by the accused Reddy brothers, who had been instrumental in BJP’s revival and win in Karnataka. Her throwing in her support behind the brothers meant she jumped into the mire and inevitably muck flew on her too with Laloo Prasad Yadav accusing her of corruption. She later distanced herself from the brothers, but public, media and other politicians have very long memories about transgressions and Sushma’s glitter now bears a bit of tarnish.
The other strange behaviour came when she began hesitating and dilly-dallying about Modi being announced as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for 2014. It was inexplicable from a person who has rigorously worked in a party, sticking to their ideals to hem and haw about another candidate who is doubtlessly the only possible choice.
Sixty now, it is possible that Sushma will once again hold a Cabinet position in 2014 if the BJP (or NDA) forms the government. She is likely to add yet another feather to her illustrious cap then.
Image Source : By BJP_Party_leader_Sushma_Swaraj.jpg: U.S. Embassy New Delhi derivative work: Materialscientist (BJP_Party_leader_Sushma_Swaraj.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons