The induction of Sushma Swaraj, who was seen as a dissenter after Narendra Modi was declared BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, is an acknowledgement of her stature and capabilities and who could not be overlooked.
62-year-old Swaraj was long being spoken about as the brightest second generation politician to lead BJP but the leader of opposition in the outgoing Lok Sabha was caught off-guard, like many others including her mentor L K Advani, by the Modi phenomenon.
While many joined the chorus and many others still reconciled to Modi’s elevation, she remained a voice of caution and at times dissent.
Whether it was the declaration of Modi as the party’s campaign committee chief in June, 2013, or his subsequent elevation as its prime ministerial candidate in September last, she chose to throw her weight with the discontent of Advani but did not take a public stand like her mentor.
But it appears that the party’s grand victory coupled with her own impressive win from Vidisha constituency and the need to put up an united front have ironed out Modi’s misgivings, if any, about her.
She too spoke about Modi’s “able leadership” and met him a couple of times during the parleys among top party leaders over the government formation.
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An articulate speaker who can speak in chaste Hindi as well as English with equally felicity, the daughter of a RSS worker is also in the good grace of the Sangh top brass due to her strong espousal of swadesi and other familiar causes.
She had vowed in 2004 to shave her head if Italy-born Congress President Sonia Gandhi became the Prime Minister. Her emotive stand won her admirers among the nationalist hardliners even though it did not come to pass after Gandhi’s decision to opt out.
She had also contested against Gandhi from Bellary in 1999 and learned to speak in Kannada. She lost by over 56,000 votes but her spirited campaign added to her stature.
Swaraj has been elected seven times as a Member of Parliament and three times as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. She also has the distinction of becoming the youngest cabinet minister at 25 in Haryana.
Swaraj began her political career with RSS student wing ABVP in the 1970s. Member of the Haryana Assembly from 1977 to 1982 from Ambala Cantonment, she was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister in Devi Lal government.
She became Janta Party’s State President in Haryana at the age of 27 and went on to become education Minister in the BJP–Lok Dal coalition government during 1987–90.
Later, she entered Rajya Sabha and was subsequently elected to the 11th Lok Sabha from South Delhi constituency in 1996.
She was Cabinet Minister for Information and Broadcasting during the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government in 1996.
She resigned from the Cabinet in the next Vajpayee regime to take over as the first female Chief Minister of Delhi in October 1998. Though it could not save the party from a humiliating loss in the state assembly. She was later made Health minister in the Union government.