Swaraj was Oppn's most-favoured PM material from BJP

Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj (Reuters Photo)

As the news of her demise spread, even leaders from Opposition parties vied with each other in showering praises on former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Among those who thronged to pay their last tributes included Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from the Congress party along with others including Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati.

That was how dear Sushma was to everyone across the political spectrum. Her popularity among the Opposition grew in her twilight years as politics became polarised even in the Parliament after Narendra Modi and Amit Shah took over the BJP.

Both the Houses in the Parliament frequently recorded remarks of Opposition leaders that Sushma could have been a better prime minister.

Congress’s Digvijay Singh, former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, regularly praised Sushma, whenever he took a dig at Modi.

Comparing Sushma to Vajpayee, Singh in 2012 said a television debate: “In the British Parliament, the Leader of Opposition is considered the shadow prime minister. If we go by that system, Sushma should be the shadow prime minister here also. But I was surprised when Sushma declared someone else as the contender of PM's post.” He had argued that she is comparable to the liberal and moderate face of Vajpayee and will be acceptable to other political parties also.

Sushma, however, debunked the praise: “Digvijay Singh has an old habit of creating disputes... There are several ways of creating disputes and too much praise is one such way. Today he used the same method here.”  

Singh again in 2014 said that Sushma would be a much better PM than Modi as she is “moderate” and “has conducted herself as the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha in a very dignified manner.”

After 2014, Lok Sabha polls, Singh and some other leaders from the Opposition kept drawing parallels between Modi and Sushma, saying that she has been sidelined and she does not accompany the prime minister in his foreign tours.

Sushma had reacted sharply asking former prime minister Manmohan Singh how many times he took his foreign minister S M Krishna and Salman Khurshid with him on key foreign visits.

In September 2012,  the then Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had said: “Only Sushma Swaraj is fit for the prime minister's post. I have said that earlier also and I am saying (it) now again… she is an intelligent woman and will do a great job as a PM.” 

However, Sushma, who was considered a contender for the Prime Minister’s post way back in 2012 said that Narendra Modi is “fit to be PM” and by 2013 the issue was settled. Though once projected as a contender, Sushma never showed any sign of bitterness and agreed to be in the Modi government as external affairs minister.

When Sushma said in the United Nations’ General Assembly Session, that there have been many governments under many parties during 70 years of India's freedom and every government has done its bit for India's development, Congress Communication Department Chief Randeep Surjewala hailed her speech saying it was a “befitting reply to those who question what happened in 70 years.”

However, an earlier version of Sushma was a bit different. She had objected to Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin in 2004 after the Congress victory in Lok Sabha polls and declared that she would live like a Hindu widow, get her tonsured, wear a white saree and eat only roasted gram if Sonia became prime minister.

Five years before this, she had contested against Sonia Gandhi from Bellary Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka, in which her party had projected as the battle between “Bharat ki beti” and “foreign ki bahu”.

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