Sushma says 'won't contest next elections'

Sushma Swaraj

External Affairs Minister and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's heavyweight, Sushma Swaraj, on Tuesday said she would not contest the Lok Sabha polls next year.

Sushma cited health reasons as she made the announcement in Indore in the poll-bound Madhya Pradesh. She said she could visit foreign countries, but not her parliamentary constituency as most of it were rural.

“It is the party (BJP) which nominates candidates (for elections). But I have made up my mind that I would not contest in the next (parliamentary) elections,” the 66-year-old minister said in response to a question during a news conference. She referred to the kidney transplant she underwent in December 2016 while responding to another query on her long absence in the political scene of the state.

Sushma, however, made it clear that she was not retiring from politics. “I am not retiring from politics. It is just that I am not contesting the next Lok Sabha election due to my health issues,” she tweeted, endorsing a post by Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta.

Dasgupta argued in his tweet that External Affairs Minister's announcement on Tuesday did not imply she was retiring from politics. “@SushmaSwaraj retiring from electoral politics on account of health issues doesn’t imply she is retiring from politics altogether. There is a great deal of contribution she can make to public life despite not being in the Lok Sabha,” he posted.

 

Sushma was elected to the Lok Sabha from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh twice — first in 2009 and then again in 2014.

She, however, drew flak for not regularly visiting Vidisha. A video questioning her on her absence from her parliamentary constituency went viral on social media recently. Some posters were also seen in and around Vidisha, pointing out that the MP elected to the Lok Sabha from the constituency had gone missing.

With the state set for Assembly polls on November 28 and parliamentary elections only a few months away, it did turn into an embarrassment for the ruling BJP.

The external affairs minister, however, said on Tuesday that her doctors had advised her against going out in open to minimise the risk of contracting infections. She said she could go to foreign countries, but could not take part in campaigning for the BJP in Vidisha as most of the parliamentary constituency was rural.

 

Sushma worked mostly from home for several months after undergoing kidney transplant in 2016 in order to protect herself from infections. She started coming to the MEA headquarters and attending Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha only in March 2017. She resumed foreign trips on official tours in August 2017 with visits to Sri Lanka and Nepal. She had visits to Russia, Italy and Bangladesh in September and October 2017. She had one or two foreign visits almost every month in 2018 — the last being the ones to Qatar and Cuba. She also visited New York to attend the UN General Assembly both in September 2017 and 2018. 

She was targeted with offensive tweets in July, including those from well-known Sangh Parivar affiliates on social media. She drew flak after helping Tanvi Seth, wife of Mohammad Anas Siddiqui of Lucknow, get her passport. An officer at the Regional Passport Office in Lucknow had allegedly harassed Seth for not changing her name after her marriage. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was among the few senior BJP leaders who supported Sushma, who, however, did not receive much support from the party.

Sushma has been very active on social media in the past four and a half years and often instructed officials on Twitter to help Indian citizens who landed in trouble overseas. She was, however, criticised by the Opposition parties for failing to rescue 39 Indians abducted by the Islamic State in Iraq in June 2014. She also drew flak from the Opposition in 2015 for allegedly helping IPL scam-accused Lalit Modi to get a travel document from the British government.

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Sushma says 'won't contest next elections'

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