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Sushma Swaraj: From fierce tigress to a quiet achiever

Updated: May 23, 2015, 12:57 PM IST

The ‘Sushmaism’ from the political hullabaloo is being missed by many these days. Mainly those who have in the past seen 'fiery' Sushma Swaraj taking on opponents with her powerful oratory. Such was her magnetism at one time that many followed Parliament’s proceedings simply so that they could listen to her razor-sharp repartee with her opponents. Remember the exchange of Urdu couplets between the former PM Manmohan Singh and Swaraj during a debate in Lok Sabha? In fact her distinguished qualities had once made her a potential prime ministerial choice.

However, after assuming the office of External Affairs Minister, this firebrand politician has made her public appearance limited. Unlike other old and new guards of the BJP, Swaraj seems to be keeping the media at an arm’s length. Barring a few recent speeches in Parliament, addressing a few election rallies and the occasional sound bytes that were mainly confined to her job, she has not really been in the limelight lately.

Swaraj's absence from the limelight has also spurred gossip that all is not well between PM Modi and the Foreign Minister.

Well, many may find these rumours baseless. Some also opine that foreign affairs are largely handled by the Prime Minister’s office, citing the examples of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi etc. Others feel that her say in the ministry is not tantamount to some of her predecessors like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh or even Salman Khurshid.

Is she paying the price for siding with the faction in the BJP that once opposed Modi’s candidature for PM as per reports that were doing rounds during 2014 General Elections? Some political enthusiasts allege even now that she is being marginalised by the Modi camp.

Whatever weight these speculations may carry, one cannot rule out the fact that indefatigable Swaraj has the ability to make her own way through rough waters. Her efforts in reaching out to Indians in crisis-stricken Yemen and Iraq were commended nationwide. With her at the helm, MEA was lauded globally for evacuating not just Indians but also other nationals from war-torn regions. Swaraj also acted promptly in taking up those matters with other nations which her predecessors had not paid much heed to. Some of them being, snooping on BJP by US, Indian fishermen issue and Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

Swaraj, who is India's second woman foreign minister after Indira Gandhi, is no novice in dealing in diplomatic matters. What sets her apart from the rest of her forerunners is her approachability – which is just a 'tweet' away. Notwithstanding the amount of effort and time that goes in running her ministry, she tries addressing almost all queries on her Twitter handle. That too without any fuss or fanfare.

As Modi completes his one year in power, Swaraj is being seen as one of those very few ministers in his Cabinet who has done him proud. Her work has been found so exemplary that it has even made the Opposition applaud and praise it. Not to forget PM Modi himself, who heaped praises on Swaraj for the manner in which she was handling her ministry and also for the efforts in Iraq and Yemen.

Then, what is it that is forcing Swaraj to put herself out of sight? There could be scores of conjectures attached to it or there could be no reason for it, but as long as the External Affairs Minister is quietly working and making herself indispensable, she is hardly leaving any room for criticism. Unlike some of her colleagues, like HRD Minister Smriti Irani.

As for ‘Sushmaisms’, people are likely to hear more of them in election rallies and in Parliament and as and when the situation requires.