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Sushma Swaraj: A people’s politician

Just a few hours before she collapsed and died, former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had tweeted her thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for revoking Article 370 on Jammu and Kashmir. “Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.”

That was her last communication on the social media platform on which she had over 13 million followers. She was active on tweeting about major happenings, though she decided against contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections or on joining the Narendra Modi 2.0 government due to health reasons.

Sushma, who died aged 67, tweeted her condolences on Congress leader Sheila Dikshit’s death on July 20, writing that though they were opponents in politics, but were friends in personal life.

Sushma, who brought her innate grace and charm into her work, was not cowed by twitter trolls either.

In fact when one troll told her, that like Sheila Dikshit, she too would be remembered after her death, Sushma took it sportingly, tweeting back: “I thank you in anticipation for this kind thought.”

Though she was overshadowed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who undertook the major trips and diplomatic dealings during her tenure as External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj did not retire into the shadows. She made her mark in her own way – connecting with the diaspora far and wide, and reaching out to help them.

She would respond to every appeal for assistance, and make sure the Indian missions responded to the requests. In this way she gave the human touch to the Ministry of External Affairs, and won millions of admirers across the world, including many in Pakistan.

Many Pakistani patients would appeal to her for medical visas via twitter, and Sushma would try to accommodate their requests. She would also connect with some of the Pakistanis who she helped get emergency medical visas. In 2017, she won admiration when she granted a year-long medical visa to a Pakistani girl Shireen Shiraz for an open heart surgery.

As Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha, Sushma was a formidable and compelling speaker. She would attack the ruling Congress-led UPA without pulling any punches, and once Parliament was witness to a fierce poetic exchange between her and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In 2013, when Manmohan Singh used an Urdu couplet to hit out at the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Sushma Swaraj responded in kind.

Manmohan Singh, accusing the BJP of making unwarranted attacks on his government, had recited a couplet of Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib. “Humko hai unse wafa ki umeed, jo nahi jaante wafa kya hai (we hope for loyalty from those who do not know the meaning of the word),” the then Prime Minister said, quoting famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.

Retorting, Sushma narrated a verse of Hindi poet Bashir Badr: “Kuch to majbooriya rahi hongi yun koi bewafa nahi hota (there must have been some compulsions, one is not disloyal for no reason at all).”

She then quoted another verse: “Tumhe wafa yaad nahee, Humein jafa yaad nahee, zindagi or maut ke toh do hee tarane hain, ek tumhein yaad nahee, ek humein yaad naheen (you don’t remember loyalty, we don’t remember disloyalty, life and death have two rhythms, you don’t remember one, we don’t remember the other).”

Sushma, who was always attired in wide-bordered saris and donned a trademark big red bindi and sindoor, had carved a niche in the BJP through effective presentation of her views both inside and outside Parliament.

Following the 2004 elections when the Congress was set to form the government and the name of Italian-born Sonia Gandhi was being touted as likely prime minister, Sushma threatened to shave her head, wear a white saree and eat groundnuts (symbolical of mourning) if Sonia became Prime Minister.

Married to Swaraj Kaushal, a former Mizoram Governor, Sushma had contested against Sonia in Bellary (Karnataka) during the 1999 Lok Sabha elections. While Gandhi polled 51.7 per cent of the vote, Sushma was not too far behind with 44.7 per cent. Though she lost the polls, Sushma moved up the party ladder.

Born on February 14, 1952 at Ambala Cantonment, Sushma earned a B.A. degree in political science. She studied LL.B. in Panjab University, Chandigarh. She married Swaraj Kaushal on July 13, 1975, during the time of the Emergency.

An advocate by profession, she began her political career as a student leader in the 1970s, organizing protests against Indira Gandhi’s government.

She was associated with many social and cultural bodies in various capacities. She was President of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Haryana for four years.

She twice became MLA from Haryana during 1977-1982 and 1987-1990, and once from Delhi in 1998.

As a Janata Party MLA in Devi Lal’s government, she was the Cabinet Minister of Labour and Employment (1977-1979) – becoming the youngest ever Cabinet Minister in the country at 25 years of age. She joined the BJP in 1980. Under a combined Lok Dal-BJP government led by Devi Lal, she was the Cabinet Minister of Education, Food and Civil Supplies (1987-1990). She was judged Best Speaker of Haryana State Assembly for three consecutive years.

In 1980, 1984, and 1989, she unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Karnal in Haryana. All three times, she was defeated by the Congress Party’s Chiranji Lal Sharma.

She was elected as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1990. In 1996, she was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha from South Delhi. She was Union Cabinet Minister of Information and Broadcasting in 1996, during the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. She was re-elected to the 12th Lok Sabha for a second term in 1998.

Under the second Vajpayee government, she retained the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and had additional charge of the Ministry of Telecommunications from March 19 to October 12, 1998.

Sushma left the Union Cabinet from October-December 1998 to serve as the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi. The BJP lost the assembly elections, and she returned to national politics.

Sushma returned to Parliament in April 2000 as a Rajya Sabha member from Uttarakhand. She was re-inducted into the cabinet as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, which she held from September 2000 until January 2003.

She was also made the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and held the post of Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. She was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in April 2006 from Madhya Pradesh. She served as the deputy leader of BJP in Rajya Sabha.

In late 2005, speculation was high that Sushma was one of the top contenders to be BJP president after L.K. Advani resigned. However, Rajnath Singh was elected to that post.

In 2009, Sushma won the election to the 15th Lok Sabha from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, by a record margin of 3.89 lakh votes.

She was made Deputy Leader of the Opposition in June 2009 in the Lok Sabha, and in December that year Sushma became the first woman Leader of the Opposition when she replaced Advani.

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Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj passes away

Sushma swaraj

Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj died at the AIIMS here on Tuesday night following cardiac arrest, hospital sources said. She was 67.

The veteran BJP leader was brought to AIIMS in a critical condition but soon passed away, the sources said.

Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Prakash Javadekar and BJP Working President J.P. Nadda arrived at the hospital as they got the news.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Sushma Swaraj, who was External Affairs Minister in his first government, lauding her services in helping Indians abroad.

“An excellent administrator, Sushma Ji set high standards in every Ministry she handled. She played a key role in bettering India’s ties with various nations. As a Minister we also saw her compassionate side, helping fellow Indians who were in distress in any part of the world.

“A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end. India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor. Sushma Swaraj Ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration for crores of people,” he said in a series of tweets.

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Sushma among several ex-ministers dropped

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In a major surprise, Sushma Swaraj, one of the senior-most leaders of the BJP, was among seven ministers of the previous Council of Ministers to be dropped as Prime Minister Narendra Modi formed his government for the second term.

The 67-year-old Swaraj who has held key positions in the party and its governments since decades was conspicuous by her absence in the new Cabinet.

Also missing in the new Council of Ministers were Suresh Prabhu, JP Nadda, Mahesh Sharma, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Gen (retd) V.K. Singh and Jayant Sinha.

Although the reasons for Swaraj’s omission were not immediately clear, the main reason possibly could be her ill-health.

Swaraj, who was External Affairs Minister during the previous term of Modi government, did not contest the Lok Sabha elections this time, declaring that her health did not permit her to enter the fray and campaign.

During her tenure as the External Affairs Minister, she was very popular among the Indian diaspora and the compatriots stranded anywhere across the globe. Just one tweet to her about any problem any Indian faced anywhere and she would immediately swing into action and activate the Indian mission in those countries for help.

When the BJP was in Opposition during the UPA government from 2004 to 2014, Swaraj was the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a successful one.

Along with her, Prabhu, who held the key portfolios of Railways and then Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, also did not find a place in the new Council of Ministers.

Nadda, who was the Health Minister in the previous term, was also absent from the list of ministers this time. However, there is speculation that he could be made the BJP President to succeed Amit Shah who has been included in the Cabinet.

Rathore, a former Olympian, who was a successful Sports and Information and Broadcasting Minister, also did not figure in the list of ministers.

Gen V.K. Singh, a former Army Chief who was Minister of State for External Affairs earlier, was also dropped this time, as was Mahesh Sharma, the Minister for Tourism and Culture in the previous government.

Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Finance in the previous government, also was missing in the new Cabinet.

He is the son of former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who has been extremely critical of Modi.

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KCR bothered about his own family, says Sushma Swaraj

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External Affairs Minister and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday alleged that Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao was bothered about his own family and that he forgot the martyrs of Telangana.

She said though Telangana state was formed because of the sacrifices of thousands of youth, power in the new state remained confined to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief and his four family members.

Sushma Swaraj was in Telangana to campaign for the BJP for next month’s Assembly elections.

“KCR forgot the martyrs whose sacrifices resulted in the formation of Telangana state,” she told the media.

“He remembered only his family. KCR is Chief Minister, his son and nephew are Ministers, his daughter is Lok Sabha member and his niece is Rajya Sabha member,” she said.

The BJP leader said that while 2,000 youth sacrificed their lives for the sake of Telangana, KCR recognized only 400 as martyrs and failed to fulfill even the promises made to them in the previous elections.

She said that the BJP extended its support to the demand for Telangana when the chips were down.

She found fault with the kind of language being used by KCR against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She said that political parties should not treat their rivals as enemies and should exercise restraint while speaking.

Sushma Swaraj denied that the BJP had a secret understanding with TRS. She said the rumours were being spread by those who want to damage the BJP’s credibility. “Whatever we do, we do it openly.”

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

39 Indians kidnapped by IS in Iraq’s Mosul are dead: Sushma

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Thirty-nine Indians kidnapped by the Islamic State (IS) terror group in Iraq’s Mosul in 2014 are dead, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday.

The minister confirmed the deaths in the Rajya Sabha and said the mortal remains will be brought back to India by Union Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh.

“General V.K. Singh will go to Iraq to bring back the mortal remains of the Indians killed in Iraq. The plane carrying the mortal remains will first reach Amritsar, then Patna and then go to Kolkata,” Sushma Swaraj said.

She said the bodies were spotted using deep penetration radar and were exhumed from mass graves.

Their identities were confirmed by DNA tests.

“The bodies were brought to Baghdad for DNA testing. The DNA of 38 Indians have been matched.

“For verification of the bodies, DNA samples of their relatives were sent there. Four state governments — Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar — were involved in the process,” the minister said.

The victims — 31 from Punjab, four from Himachal Pradesh and four from Bihar and West Bengal — were construction workers and were employed by an Iraqi company in Mosul.

They were taken hostage when the IS took control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The workers were trying to leave Mosul when they were taken hostage.

Sushma Swaraj also dismissed claims of Harjeet Massi, one of them who escaped from Mosul.

“He was not willing to tell me how he escaped,” she said.

The minister said that she had concrete evidence that he was lying.

Massi had escaped along with Bangladeshis with the help of a caterer with a fake name ‘Ali’, she said.

She said the details were revealed to her by Massi’s employer and the caterer who helped him.

In July 2017, Sushma Swaraj had said that she would not declare the 39 Indians dead without concrete proof or evidence.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Sushma seeks report over attack on Sikh boy in US

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday said she has sought a report from the Indian Embassy in the US following reports of an attack on a Sikh schoolboy in a city in Washington State.

“I have seen news reports about the beating of a Sikh boy in US. I have asked @IndianEmbassyUS to send me a report on the incident,” Sushma Swaraj tweeted.

The 14-year-old boy was beaten up by a classmate in Kent city, with his father claiming that the victim was targeted as he is of Indian descent, the media reported.

The incident happened on October 26, less than a block from Kentridge High School, where both the boys are students, KIRO-TV reported.

In the clip that was posted on mobile application Snapchat, a teenaged boy followed the victim and punched him, knocking him to the ground.

The victim was punched several more times as he tried to protect his head and crawl away.

The victim’s father said he felt pain each time he looked at the video. “I am feeling so, so bad because this happened with my son. They beat him from the backside and hurt him too much.

“This is a very big thing for me, here in America… I can’t explain… how I am feeling,” said the 14-year-old’s father, who declined to be identified.

The family said the incident exposed racial divisions in the city. However, school officials said the attack was not religiously or racially motivated, but was instead a continuation of an earlier classroom dispute.

The victim’s parents denied that, saying their son did not even know his attacker’s name. “He never interacted with this guy. He never knew his name,” said the victim’s father.

Calls and messages from people in the region poured in expressing outrage about the incident.

The Kent area is home to many Sikhs. The family said it wants peace for them and everyone. “I don’t want to see this again happen with my son or anyone else. I don’t want to see this,” the boy’s father said.

A Facebook thread about the incident generated more than 40 comments from parents and community members who said the teen who beat up the boy needs to be held accountable and people everywhere need to stand up to injustice.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

India reiterates concern to US over H1-B visa issue

India on Tuesday reiterated its concern to the US over the latest bid to introduce stricter norms for issuance of H1-B visas which are largely availed by Indian IT firms.

The Indian concerns were conveyed during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and a US Congressional delegation from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“EAM @SushmaSwaraj flagged the issue of H1B visa as a strong concern and sought bipartisan Congressional support for the same,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted following the meeting between Sushma Swaraj and the nine-member delegation led by the House Committee’s Chairman Lamar Smith.

US President Donald Trump has called for stricter norms for issuance of H1-B visas, largely availed of by Indian IT firms. A private member’s bill was also introduced earlier this year in the US Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren which seeks to increase the minimum salary of an H1-B visa holder to a whopping $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000.

Sushma Swaraj also raised the issue with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session last month.

While Trump has spoken of restricting the H1-B visa system as part of his policy of putting Americans first, so far there have been no changes to it and for this year the same levels of 65,000 for general H1-B visas and 20,000 for those with advanced US degrees have been kept.

Indians get most of the H1-B visas, although there are no national quotas for the facility nor is it specifically designed for Indians.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Sushma Swaraj lauded the positive role of the US Congress in developing India-US strategic relations.

“EAM @SushmaSwaraj welcomed the strong desire of the delegation to strengthen cooperation in strategic, economic, S&T and space sectors,” Kumar said in a separate tweet.

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Sushma Swaraj takes up H1B visas with US

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took up the issues of H1B visas and the rights of illegal immigrant children when she met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday morning.

Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet that Sushma Swaraj “strongly raised the issue of H1B visa and children falling under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy with Secretary Tillerson”.

He also said the two of them “discussed regional issues, with a focus of Pakistan, Afghanistan and terrorism” and “reviewed all aspects all the bilateral relationship, including expanding our trade and investment relations.”

A State Department statement said that they “looked forward to convening a 2+2 dialogue” with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Defence Secretary James Mattis in the near future.

The statement said that Tillerson thanked Sushma Swaraj “for India’s contributions to stability and development in Afghanistan and the region”.

In speech on new Afghanistan policy last month, US President Donald Trump had said a “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India”.

He also asked for more help from India in Afghanistan, where he was recalibrating US policy.

Another topic that came up in their discussions between Sushma Swaraj and Tillerson was the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), which the two countries are to co-host in Hyderabad, in November, the State Department said.

Trump’s daughter and his official adviser, Ivanka, who is to lead the US delegation to the summit also met Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday.

This was the first one-on-one meeting between the top diplomats of the two countries since Tillerson, a former head of the oil giant Exxon Mobil, became Secretary of State.

On Monday both of them had participated in a trilateral meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

It was not clear what Sushma Swaraj wanted done about the H1B, a category of temporary visas for professionally qualified people, as there has as yet been no changes to that visa system.A

While Trump has spoken of restricting the H1B visa system as part of his policy of putting Americans first, so far there have been no changes to it and for this year the same levels of 65,000 for general H1B visas and 20,000 for those with advanced US degrees have been kept.

Indians get most of the H1B visas, although it does not have any national quotas or is specifically designed for Indians.

According to some estimates, about 7,000 Indians are covered by DACA, a presidential order issued by then President Barack Obama to allow those who were brought in illegally as children to stay on in the US.

Trump had said that he was not going to renew the DACA order, which will expire next March, and wanted Congress to legislate it into law.

He has since said that he may reconsider it if Congress had not passed the law by then.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Sushma Swaraj comes to aid of Pakistani boy with heart ailment

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A four-month-old Pakistani boy suffering from a serious heart ailment will get a fresh lease of life as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj offered him a medical visa on humanitarian grounds.

Rohaan, a resident of Lahore, has a hole in his heart and would now get treatment at Noida’s Jaypee Hospital.

Due to the tensions between India and Pakistan, Rohaan’s parents were unable to get a medical visa for their child’s treatment even though his condition was critical.

Rohaan’s father Kanwal Saadik finally sought help from Sushma Swaraj on Twitter informing her about the critical condition of his son.

The Minister tweeted back assuring him that his child would not suffer because of any political issue and that they would get the medical visa for his treatment in India.

“The child will not suffer. Please contact Indian High Commission in Pakistan. We will give the medical visa,” she replied.

Rohaan finally got the visa and would now come for his treatment via Wagha border on Monday.

Jaypee Hospital CEO Manoj Luthra said: “Keeping aside the tensions between the two countries, the minister did a noble act of thinking about the child’s health. We welcome the baby and family and are pleased to know that with our expert doctors and world class services that we provide, we are able to build trust for us in people across nations.”

The boy will first be treated by paediatric cardiologist Ashutosh Marwah and later will undergo a heart surgery conducted by paediatric cardiac surgeon Rajesh Sharma, a statement said.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

VH raises banner in RS for removal of Sushma

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The he first day of monsoon session began  today on stormy note in Rajya Sabha while the Lok Sabha was adjourned following obituary references. The Rajya Sabha, which continued till afternoon, was later adjourned for the day after four disruptions caused by the uproar following the Congress’ demand for action against foreign minister Sushma Swaraj  for her links with Lalit Modi.

In Lok Sabha speaker Sumatra Mahajan announced the acceptance of resignation of Warangal MP Kadiaym Srihari, who quit Lok Sabha following his induction into state cabinet by chief minister KCR.

While Congress senior member Ananda Sharma raised the issues of Lalit Modi-gate and demanded a discussion on the issue in Upper House, V Hanumantha Rao, Congress member from Telangana, displayed banner seeking removal Sushma Swaraj from cabinet which threw the house into a din forcing the chair to adjourn the House. The following is timeline of parliament session today.

3:17 pm: Rajya Sabha has been adjourned fourth time and  for the day, following uproar over the Lalit Modi issue.

1:30 pm: Leading the opposition protests, Congress members forced three adjournments in the pre—lunch session making both Question Hour and Zero Hour a casualty, even as Leader of the House Arun Jaitley offered an immediate discussion and said Swaraj could make a statement on the issue.

1:25 pm: BJP’s national spokesman M.J. Akbar, who won the Rajya Sabha bypolls from Jharkhand earlier this month, took oath as a Rajya Sabha Member today.

The bypoll was necessitated following the resignation of K D Singh after he left Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and joined Trinamool Congress.

Akbar, whose term will expire next year, had defeated Haji Hussain Ansari of the JMM by 19 votes.

1:10 pm: Leader of the House Arun Jaitely says the government is ready for a discussion and Ms. Swaraj would also make a statement on the issue.

1:05 pm: Jaitley says the government gets a distinct and clear impression that Opposition wants disturbance, they don’t want a discussion

1:00 pm: Govt. is ready for discussion in any format, at any time: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Lalit Modi controversy.

12:20 pm: Rajya Sabha adjourned for 30 minutes after uproar over Lalit Modi issue.

11:30 am: Rajya Sabha adjourned till 12 p.m. Opposition raises Lalit Modi issue, troops into well of House.

11:27 am: Congress MP Hanumanth Rao raises banner seeking Sushma Swaraj’s removal in Rajya Sabha.

11:23 am: Lok Sabha adjourned for the day after obituary references.

11:20 am: Lok Sabha adjourned for the day after obituary references.

11:15 am: Just at the start of the session, the Congress has started targeting Modi’s NDA government over the Lalit Modi issue. “All Modi’s promises over transparency and accountability are being questioned. Government changes but not laws. A minister told UK government to sanction Lalit Modi’s travel document’s over some humanitarian grounds,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said.

11:00 am: Obituary references read in both Houses of Parliament.

11:00 am: Monsoon session of Parliament begins.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also informed the House that TRS member from Warangal in Telangana Kadiyam Srihari had resigned on June 11 and she has accepted his resignation

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

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