New Delhi: Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who died of a cardiac arrest late on Tuesday night, was cremated with full state honours at Lodhi Road crematorium in New Delhi today.
Hundreds of people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and veteran party leader L.K. Advani, gathered at the Lodhi Road crematorium to pay their final respects to Swaraj.
The body of the long-time BJP leader, who passed away at AIIMS, Delhi, at the age of 67, was brought to the crematorium from the party office.
Many jostled for a last glimpse as the casket with her mortal remains, wrapped in the tricolour, was put in the hearse in preparation for her final journey.
Others tried to capture images on their mobile phones in the main hall of the BJP headquarters and outside as the van rolled across the street.
Political leaders pay their respect
Neeti Jain, a BJP party worker, said Swaraj was an inspiration to all women who entered politics.
“I got to meet her during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls while we were taking recorded interviews for All India Radio, DD News. I clicked a picture with her and wrote, ‘It was a fangirl moment for me’. My 90-year-old grandfather saw the picture and he told me, ‘I am proud of you today’. Such was her charisma that people from three generations looked up to her,” Jain said.
Meena Bhati, a party worker from Uttar Pradesh, echoed Jain.
“I had to come to seek her blessings for one last time. We have all heard her speak and there are no words to describe this loss,” Bhati said.
Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh said, “She was like a sister to me and an extremely polite woman. Her death is shocking to us. I still can’t believe she’s gone.”
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday remembered late Swaraj as the MP who with her oratory skills and photographic memory used to make opposition members nervous in parliament.
“When Swaraj, as an MP, used to attack the opposition, it was felt that their leaders have become speechless. Her memory was awesome. I was highly impressed and astonished by the way she would shed light on the incidents with dates and details,” recalled Mahajan, who had served as the Speaker of the 16th Lok Sabha during 2014-2019.
Swaraj, who represented Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh in 2009 and 2014, had served as the leader of opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha till May 2014 when the BJP won the general elections.
Hailing Swaraj’s contribution as external affairs minister, Mahajan said, “Swaraj was India’s voice at international platforms, who would aggressively put India’s side before the international community”.
She termed as a “bolt from the blue” Swaraj’s death at a time when the country is “rejoicing” the Modi government’s decision to withdraw the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
“In the death of Swaraj, India has lost a dedicated leader. Despite serious illness, she remained active for the country and society,” she said referring to Swaraj’s kidney transplant in 2016.
Mahajan reminisced that Swaraj was her “good friend” though she was much younger to the former speaker.
“I have learnt many things in politics from Swaraj who was younger to me in age but had a bigger stature in work,” she added.
Chhattisgarh governor Anusuiya Uikey and chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Wednesday condoled the death of senior BJP leader and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, dubbing it as an “irreparable loss” for Indian politics. Uikey, in her condolence message, called Swaraj “a great political leader and extraordinary orator with able leadership qualities”.
“She was like a guru (mentor) to me. When I first became the Rajya Sabha MP, Swaraj, like an elder sister, encouraged me and boosted my confidence”, the governor said.
“Along with the country, it is an irreparable loss for me. I extend my condolences to her family in this hour of grief. May her soul rest in peace,” she added.
Baghel also said Swaraj’s sudden demise was an irreparable loss to the Indian politics.
“During her long political career, she left a mark while successfully working on various positions and gained all-round appreciation. May God give enough strength to the bereaved family to bear the irreparable loss,” he said.
The former chief minister and BJP’s national vice president Raman Singh, in his condolence message, referred to Swaraj’s last tweet lauding the government’s move on Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Seeing the last words of Sushmaji bring tears to eyes,” Singh said on Twitter.
“Her demise is an irreparable loss to Indian politics but her ideas and ideals will remain immortal on this land for ages,” he added.
B.S. Yediyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka, paid his last respects to the departed leader and remembered her association with the southern state.
He said Swaraj had a close connection with Karnataka since 1999, when she contested the Lok Sabha polls against UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi from Ballari.
“She made it a point to visit Ballari every year for the Varamahalakshmi pooja for a decade. She is fondly remembered by the people for such gestures,” Yediyurappa said.
“May her soul rest in peace and may God give the strength to his family and loved ones to endure this loss,” he said in his condolence message.
Yediyurappa also remembered Swaraj as an excellent orator and an exceptional leader who rose to great heights in her political career as a committed soldier of the country.
“Sushma Swaraj served as the minister of external affairs and was the second woman to hold the office after Indira Gandhi. Her proactive outreach to people in distress and accessibility to citizens earned her love and respect from the masses,” he said.
The former Delhi chief minister was hailed as India’s “best-loved politician by the global media”, he added.
Also read: Sushma Swaraj, a Woman of Many Firsts
Tamil Nadu chief minister K. Palaniswami expressed grief over Swaraj’s demise and hailed her contributions to the country.
He described Swaraj as “one of the highly-respected women leaders” in the world of politics and said her demise was a “great loss” to the country.
“I was shocked and grieved on hearing about the demise of Sushma Swaraj, who had held various portfolios including that of external affairs,” Palaniswami said in a statement issued in Chennai.
“She was cordial to leaders of all political hues and her demise is a great loss not just to her family, but the country,” the chief minister said.
Puducherry lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi also condoled Swaraj’s demise.
In her condolence message, Bedi said, “The passing away of Sushma Swaraj is a personal and national loss. She brought warmth and care in her work.”
Foreign leaders conveyed their condolences as well.
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sushma Swaraj, former Foreign Minister of India.
My deepest condolences and prayers go out to her family.
Sushma is not only a good colleague of mine. She is also my sister. pic.twitter.com/GbKcjJHyTQ
— Menteri Luar Negeri Republik Indonesia (@Menlu_RI) August 7, 2019
Paid my last respects to Smt. #SushmaSwaraj ji. A day of many memories, including of a special Minister-Secretary partnership of which we were both proud. Will miss her humour and affection. pic.twitter.com/cTI10CUPp8
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) August 7, 2019
— MFA Russia ?? (@mfa_russia) August 6, 2019
She was a true inspiration, a role model for me. I learnt from Her how to deal with problems of fellow countrymen in need of help overseas. Apart from everything we achieved, Her support during evacuation from Yemen will be remembered by me forever. @SushmaSwaraj rest in Peace. pic.twitter.com/SJT9aj56bZ
— Md. Shahriar Alam (@MdShahriarAlam) August 6, 2019
“People of #Lka will always remember her for her personal touch that she brought to relations between the two countries” says PM @RW_UNP in a condolence message to PM @narendramodi over the demise of fmr external Min Smt. @SushmaSwaraj @BJP4India pic.twitter.com/td3MzCY9HI
— Sudarshana Gunawardana (@Sudarshana_RN) August 7, 2019
(With PTI inputs)