Sushma Swaraj’s close bond with Bellary

A file photo of Sushma Swaraj performing Varamahalakshmi pooja in then Bellary.

BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj has breathed her last just three days before the Varamahalakshmi festival.

For nearly 15 years since 1999, Sushma had made it a point to celebrate Varamahalakshmi festival every year in Bellary (now Ballari), from where she had unsuccessfully contested the 1999 Lok Sabha elections against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

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Sushma’s association with Bellary and Karnataka was not just limited to she taking part in the Varamahalakshmi “vratha” at the house of renowned physician Dr B K Sreenivasa Murthy every year. The “Big Battle of Bellary,” in which she took on Sonia, helped the BJP to create a strong base for itself not just in Bellary and but also in the adjoining districts where the party was a non-entity.

A quick learner, Sushma started addressing her poll rallies in chaste Kannada winning many a hearts, though she failed to win the Lok Sabha polls. The “Sushma versus Sonia” polls, which was fought on the lines of “Beti versus Bahu” drew scores of apolitical people to the BJP in Bellary and surrounding areas.

Sushama contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Bellary was indeed a turning point in the lives of the Reddy brothers of Bellary and their friend B Sreeramulu, who later played a crucial role in installing the first-ever BJP government in Karnataka, led by B S Yediyurappa. Sushma had camped at the residence of Dr Sreenivasa Murthy, who is the father-in-law of devotional singer Sri Vidyabushana, and celebrated the Varamahalakshmi festival at his house during 1999 elections. Since then she had made it a point to participate in the festival at their house every year. She had announced that “as a daughter of Bellary” she would come there to celebrate the festival as long as she is alive.

However, due to health issues and her busy schedule as External Affairs Minister, she had not visited Bellary for the last few years.

Dr Sreenivasa Murthy’s younger son, Dr B K Srikanth, said Sushma was a down-to-earth person who used to mingle with everyone at his home.

“Just three days ago, my father had spoken to her and invited her to the festival. Though she sounded fine, she expressed her inability to make it because of her poor health.”

During the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, DH had carried an article: An area of darkness hogs limelight", explaining Bellary's backwardness and how the place had hogged the limelight in the wake of celebrity contest. In a chat with this journalist during the campaign, Sushma had said that this article had provided her an insight into problems of Bellary as she was new to the place.

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