Sushma Swaraj, former Indian foreign minister, passes away

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
 Sushma Swaraj

Indian Americans remember Sushma Swaraj as the leader who was always there for them during her tenure as India’s foreign minister.

Sushma Swaraj, who served as India’s external affairs minister during the first term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, passed away in Delhi, India on Tuesday night (around noon EST). She had suffered a heart attack and was admitted to the city’s AIIMS hospital around 10.20 pm local.

Swaraj, who was a popular external affairs minister, had not contested the recent Lok Sabha elections, in which Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party registered a thumping win.

Soon as the news of Swaraj’s death came along, there was a sense of sadness among the Indian community in the US.

The former external affairs minister, who remained one of the most prominent women leaders in Indian politics, had achieved somewhat of a cult status on Twitter with her effective usage of the social media platform to reach the common man.

There were countless examples of her helping Non-Resident Indians and Indian tourists abroad, as well as persons of Indian origin whenever they sought her help on Twitter.

From helping stranded tourists and people in cases of passport theft whilst abroad to lending a helping hand to women trapped in abusive marriages abroad, Swaraj with her iron will and promptness on social media in many ways became a people’s leader.

Nitin Shah, an Indian American living and working in New York City, received the news on whatsapp while he was out for lunch from his office. “In many of our visa-related Facebook and chat groups, it was a common practice to advise each other to reach to Ms Swaraj for any legible visa related worries when she was the foreign minister,” he said. “It is just sad that a great leader is gone.”

Megha Gaur from Morrison, NJ, also remembered Swaraj with a fondness. “I recall when one of my friends, a visitor to Los Angeles from Mumbai lost her bag with passport in the US,” she said. “My first advise to her was to contact Swaraj on Twitter.”

Swaraj, 67, had been suffering from several illnesses in the past few years. She had a kidney transplant some time back and had cited health reasons for not contesting the last elections.

During her illustrious political career, Swaraj held many important positions, including serving as a minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee’s cabinet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and serving as a member of parliament for several terms. She was served as the chief minister of Delhi briefly in 2008.

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