How Sushma Swaraj changed the way politicians interact with the public
Former External Affairs Minister and BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj passed away last evening. Swaraj’s demise is being mourned by netizens, who found her to be one of the most approachable politicians in the country.
Swaraj’s Twitter diplomacy had won her many admirers as she brought her unique human approach to help Indians in distress in foreign lands, as well as foreigners caught in hapless situations. During her term as minister in the Modi Government from 2014-19, Swaraj arranged for Indians stranded abroad to be brought home, including freeing Indian citizen Hamid Ansari, who was jailed in Pakistan, and bringing home 168 Indians stuck in Iran’s Basra region. She also helped out a Dutch national looking for her missing sister. Reaching out across the border, Swaraj also arranged for Visas to enable Pakistani nationals to travel to India to receive medical treatment.
Not surprisingly, Swaraj’s final Tweet was about the revoking of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir. She had tweeted: “@narendramodi ji - Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.” Just an hour before she passed away, her conversation was about the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. Swaraj asked Harish Salve, India’s legal representative who fought the case against Pakistan in the International Court of Justice, to come and collect the fee that he had charged for fighting the case – Re 1.
Time and again Swaraj demonstrated her sharp wit while interacting with Twitteratis. One remembers how once she had silenced a man complaining about getting a defective refrigerator by tweeting, “Brother, I cannot help you in matters of a refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress.” Public persona can learn a thing or two from her on how to handle trolls. There was an instance, when she expressed her condolences on the passing away of a former BJP Delhi president Mange Ram, which was trolled by a Twitter user who rudely stated that her time would come soon too. Remaining calm, Swaraj tweeted back, “Is bhawana ke liye apko mera agrim dhanyawad. I thank you in anticipation for this kind thought.”
She had once come to the defence of a man who sought her help in getting his sick friend from Malaysia to India. The man’s tweet was full of grammatical errors, which was made fun of by several. Swaraj’s response was epic, “There is no problem. After becoming Foreign Minister, I have learnt to follow English of all accents and grammar.”
Who says politicians lack humour? Swaraj showed her funny side when she responded to a man seeking help as he was stuck in Mars, with the retort, “Even if you are stuck on the Mars, Indian Embassy there will help you.”
In a era where the majority lives out their lives on social media and where politicians, brands, celebrities are reaching out to the masses, Swaraj set an example in handling public affairs with grace and empathy.
RIP Sushma Swaraj.