Sushma Swaraj: The people’s politician with many firsts to her credit

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was known for her warmth that endeared her to even bitter political rivals. As the external affairs minister, Swaraj took foreign policy closer to the people through her innovative use of social media. A law graduate, Sushma Swaraj practiced in the Supreme Court and was elected seven times as a member of Parliament and three times as a member of the legislative assembly. She managed to break many a stereotype and rose to hold some of the highest offices in the country. As the country mourns her demise, we take a look at Swarajs political career. Youngest cabinet minister Sushma Swaraj began her political career with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in the 1970s, organising protests against Indira Gandhi government. She began practicing as an advocate in the Supreme Court in 1973. In 1977, she became the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana at the age of 25 years when she was named the state education minister in 1987. First female spokesperson of a national party In 1979, Sushma Swaraj became the Haryana unit president of Janata Party. She was just 27. Also, she became the first female spokesperson of a national political party in the country. First woman Chief Minister of Delhi Sushma Swaraj became the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998 and also first woman CM from the BJP. She replaced Sahib Singh Verma as part of the BJPs image revamp exercise ahead of local elections. First woman Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Swaraj was seen as a protege of veteran BJP leader and former deputy prime minister LK Advani. She was the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha between 2009 and 2014. Only woman to be named Outstanding Parliamentarian Sushma Swaraj was the first and only woman member to be honoured with the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award. She contested 11 elections from four states. She has also served as the President of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in Haryana for four years. Set up 6 AIIMS Sushma Swaraj was the minister of health, family welfare, and parliamentary affairs from January 2003 until May 2004. As the Union health minister, she set up six All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Bhopal (MP), Bhubaneshwar (Odisha), Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Patna (Bihar), Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Rishikesh (Uttrakhand). Declared film production as an industry In 1998 when general elections were, she was re-elected from South Delhi seat. She served as the Union information and broadcasting minister with additional charge of telecommunications. She revolutionised film making by giving industry status to film production, which allowed producers to access bank finance. Role as external affairs minister (2014-19) During her stint as the external affairs ministers, Swaraj introduced several path-breaking measures such as the expansion of the passport infrastructure and enhanced engagement with East Asian countries. She handled several strategically sensitive issues, including Indo-Pak and Sino-India relations. Her role in resolving the prickly Doklam standoff in 2017 between the Indian and Chinese sides will be remembered. She also played a key role in India approaching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) challenging a Pakistani military courts death sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav. Swaraj was known for a prompt response on Twitter to address grievances of overseas Indians. Swaraj 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.