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Sushma Swaraj Cremated with Full State Honours as Nation Mourns Loss of ‘People’s Minister’

Swaraj died on Tuesday night at the age of 67. The senior BJP leader was brought to AIIMS around 9:30pm and was taken to the emergency ward after suffering a massive cardiac arrest.

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Updated:August 7, 2019, 11:06 PM IST
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Sushma Swaraj Cremated with Full State Honours as Nation Mourns Loss of ‘People’s Minister’
File photo of Sushma Swaraj (PTI Photo)
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New Delhi: Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was cremated with full state honours at the Lodhi Road crematorium here on Wednesday. Hundreds of people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and veteran party leader Lal Krishna Advani, bade farewell.

Swaraj, who also served as the Leader of Opposition and chief minister of Delhi, was given full state honours after which her body was cremated in the electric crematorium. Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, several leaders from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as well as the opposition, were present.

Swaraj died on Tuesday night at the age of 67. The senior BJP leader was brought to AIIMS around 9:30pm and was taken to the emergency ward after suffering a massive cardiac arrest.

Swaraj had put out a tweet on Tuesday evening congratulating Modi after the Centre's move to revoke the special status for Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the border state into two Union Territories secured Parliament's approval. "Narendra Modi ji - Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime," she had said.

The body of the long-time BJP leader on Wednesday was brought to the crematorium from the party office around noon. Many jostled for a last glimpse as the casket with Swaraj’s 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.

Other leaders who paid their respects included Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Harsh Vardhan and Ashwini Kumar Choubey, BJP working president JP Nadda, and New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi.

Describing Swaraj as a great parliamentarian and a lady of "extraordinary gifts", Congress leader Sonia Gandhi said she shared a warm personal relationship with her and felt her loss greatly.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi described Swaraj as an extraordinary parliamentarian and a gifted orator, adding that her legacy will live on and continue to touch the lives of millions of Indians.

In a letter to Swaraj's husband Swaraj Kaushal, Gandhi said he was deeply saddened by her untimely demise. "We have lost an extraordinary parliamentarian and a gifted orator," Gandhi said.

Senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also attended the funeral. Swaraj's mortal remains were consigned to flames in the electric crematorium, amid sounding of the ceremonial bugle and strains of vedic mantras in the background.

Modi was seen comforting her husband Swaraj Kasushal and daughter Bansuri. People from multiple faiths converged at the crematorium, and many came from as far as Bihar and Madhya Pradesh to pay homage to Swaraj.

National President of Jamaat Ulama-e-Hind Molana Suhaib Qasmi, who came with a group of people from Nizamuddin area, said, "Her death is a big loss for the party, and the country. As a foreign minister, she had helped so many distressed diaspora people, whether it was in Saudi Arabia or Iraq or Yemen. I had once travelled with her to Yemen. She raised India's stature as the external affairs minister. We are shocked by her death," he said.

Choubey said that Swaraj's death was a "huge loss for the party and an irreparable loss for the country. Our prayers are with the family". Lekhi, who had also visited the family at the AIIMS on Tuesday night, besides a host of the other senior leaders, lauded Swaraj, saying, "she was an icon for every woman".

"Any woman who wants to be in politics, ask her, and she would say 'I want to be like Sushma Swaraj'. She had exemplary oratory skills, was academically sound and was a leader of immense credibility who could take the opposition head on," she said.

AAP MLA Somnath Bharti said, Swaraj was a "rare politician" who was liked by people across parties.

"I used to invite her for the events, when I was the alumni association president at IIT... BJP has several good leaders but the leaders of the stature of Vajpayeeji (former PM) and Sushmaji, I don't think we see them any longer," he said.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat expressed grief at Swaraj's demise, saying it was an irreparable loss for the country's politics.

"Extremely saddened to hear about Sushma ji's demise. It is an irreparable loss for the country's politics. We have lost a great leader and a brilliant orator who was full of human emotions," he said. Rawat's Punjab counterpart, Amarinder Singh, said he was shocked to learn about the former Delhi chief minister's demise and described her as a "dynamic and sensitive" leader.

"Shocked to learn of the sudden demise of Sushma Swaraj ji. I will always remember her as a dynamic and sensitive leader with the ability to empathise with the common people. Will miss her. May your soul rest in peace," the senior Congress leader said in a tweet.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said he was deeply shocked to learn about Swaraj's demise. "It is a personal loss for me," he wrote on Twitter.

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa 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."

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. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister EK 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 and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy 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."

Narayanasamy described Swaraj as a "veteran Parliamentarian and powerful speaker". Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray expressed grief over the "irreparable loss" his family had suffered following the demise Swaraj, whom party patriarch Bal Thackeray had once backed as the NDA's prime ministerial face.

He recalled that his father Bal Thackeray shared an affectionate rapport with the BJP leader.

"A resplendent era in India's politics has come to a halt with the demise of Sushma Swaraj. It is not only the country and the BJP, but the Thackeray family too has suffered an irreparable loss. The rapport (late) Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray and Sushmaji shared was an affectionate one," Uddhav Thackeray's office quoted him as saying on Twitter.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik condoled the former external affairs minister's demise, describing her as a "tall leader and an icon for millions of women". "As a self-made public persona, she was always eager to help stranded Indians anywhere in the world. She was at the forefront when it came to using social media for providing instant assistance to people in distress.

"Her multi-linguistic skills and convincing oratory made her a leader of the masses and an icon for millions of women," Patnaik said. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma condoled Swaraj's demise, hailing her as "one of India's tallest leaders and an epitome of integrity".

Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik also expressed grief over Swaraj's demise. Describing her as a dynamic politician and a symbol of women empowerment who always worked for the country's betterment, he said it was difficult to fill the space left behind by Swaraj.

In a condolence message, Malik prayed for peace to the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family in this hour of grief.

Not just politicians in India, leaders from the US, China, Bangladesh, Iran and Singapore also condoled Swaraj's demise and recalled her important role in cementing India's relations with the world.

(With inputs from PTI)

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