A humble tribute to Sushma Swaraj
Former External Affairs Minister and a political leader by her own right, Sushma Swaraj, is no more. I write this as a humble tribute to her, a worthy daughter of India. I followed her closely from the mid-1970s when she stole the limelight as a young politician and an excellent orator and debater and later as an astute parliamentarian and an able Minister in various governments.
It was a personal pleasure when I got the opportunity to see her closely at work and interact with her on a couple of occasions as the Director of Central Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in the years 1997-2000. Sushma Swaraj was the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government. I found her extremely pleasant and courteous to junior officials like me on one hand and a competent and able Minister on the other. One distinction which she brought to the Ministry of External Affairs was that she paid personal attention to the needsand services to Indians and Indian Diaspora abroad which hitherto was not on the list of priorities of her predecessors. It was appreciated much and rightly so both at home in India and also in foreign lands by the beneficiaries. It will not be out of place to mention with a sense of gratitude that Sushma Swaraj was kind enough to see, read and respond to my humble proposal to declare April 14, birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality under the aegis of the UN made in 2015 in the wake of the decision by PM Narendra Modi’s government to observe and commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The birth anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar was celebrated at New York, the Headquarters of the UN in April, 2016 for the first time with the support and directions of EAM Sushma Swaraj and the current EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar who was the then Foreign Secretary and I kept him also on the loop. Next year that is April, 2017, there were reports, mostly
unfounded, spread by some of the vested interests who profess to be the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar but in fact are anti-establishment, that the GOI has advised the Indian PR at the UN not to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Ambedkar. On noticing this, I took the liberty of writing an e-mail to EAM Sushma Swaraj and brought it to her notice and requested her to ensure that the birthday was celebrated at the UN. It was done with all solemnity and grace. It was a matter of great satisfaction. Later, I came to know, informally, that EAM Sushma Swaraj personally directed that the birthday should be celebrated officially by the Indian PR at the UN. We need to pursue the matter further with the public support.
With the demise of Sushma Swaraj, India has lost a dedicated and able politician and also a towering public figure. May God grant peace to the departed soul.