Swaraj Opposition's favoured PM candidate from BJP

Swaraj Opposition's favoured PM candidate from BJP

As the news of her demise spread, even leaders from Opposition parties vied with each other in showering lavish praise on former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. File photo

As the news of her demise spread, even leaders from Opposition parties vied with each other in showering lavish praise on former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.  

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Among those who thronged to pay their last tributes included Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from Congress along with others including Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati.

Even when Swaraj was alive lived, she has endeared herself across the political spectrum. Her popularity in Opposition grew all the more in her twilight years as politics became all the more polarized even in Parliament after Narendra Modi and Amit Shah took over the BJP.

Both Houses in Parliament frequent recorded remarks of Opposition leaders that Swaraj could have been a better Chief Minister.

Congress’s Digvijay Singh, former Chief Minister Madhya Pradesh from where Swaraj was a Lok Sabha MP from, regularly praised Swaraj, though mostly when he took a dig at Modi.

Comparing Swaraj to Vajpayee, Singh in 2012 said a television debate “In 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 said the BJP leader matches with the liberal and moderate face of Vajpayee and will be acceptable to other political parties also

Handling it gracefully, Swaraj debunked the praise saying “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.”  Even after 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Singh and some other leaders from Opposition kept drawing the Modi versus Swaraj parallel and taunting that Swaraj has been sidelined and she does not accompany when Prime Minister Modi visits foreign nations.

Swaraj had reacted sharply asking former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh how many times he took his foreign minister SM 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, Swaraj, who was then considered a contender for the Prime Minister’s post had way back in 2012 said clear that Narendra Modi is “fit to be PM” and by 2013 the issue was settled. Despite being once a contender, Swaraj never showed any sign of bitterness once she agreed to serve under Modi government as External Affairs Minister.

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

And contrast it with strident stand Swaraj had taken on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue in 2004 after Congress victory in Lok Sabha polls threatening 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 that she had contested against Sonia Gandhi from Bellari Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka, which her party had projected as the battle between “bharat ki beti” and “foreign ki bahu”.