I remember last year when one of my relative’s mother was stuck in Pakistan because of a legal issue, my first response was ‘Let’s tweet to Sushma Swaraj, she’ll help’. If you ask me, that best sums up the life and time of the political superheroine.
Born in Ambala, the lawyer turned politician started her career as an advocate only to turn to politics in four short years. In 1977 when she was elected to the Haryana legislative assembly, she became the youngest cabinet minister. Two decades later, in 1998 she became the first female CM of Delhi.
While her political legacy is filled with firsts, her journey to become a people’s politician was also equally, if not more, memorable.
Passport problems? Tweet to Sushma. Stranded in a foreign land? Tweet to Sushma. Stressed out about the new laws in the country? Tweet to Sushma.
The fact that her political legacy includes the words compassionate, funny and approachable is also another first that she’s added to her journey. With Sushma, we had a minister who was not just powerful but she was approachable by the common man.
All we had to go is log on to Twitter and get the lady to listen, and help.
Sushma’s empathy found takers across generations and she will remain, in political history, what we would call, an online star (Google her name and you’ll also find “Minister of Swag” a moniker we pretty much love).
Over the last five years, we’ve heard these Twitter narratives where everyone from a newly married couple waiting for their passports to a man who had a malfunctioning refrigerator, all tweeted to the minister, only to get solutions (and sassy burns in some cases).
Her use of the internet wasn’t only limited to solving queries. Back in 2017, when 10,000 Indian workers in Saudi Arabia faced a food crisis due to job losses, Sushma tweeted to her thirteen million followers for help. What followed was a week-long social media operation, with Sushma tweeting information about rations provided by the Indian embassy, claims for unpaid wages, and government-organised transportation to everyone’s respective homes.
Sushma was named a “decision-maker” in the Global Thinkers List of 2016, alongside Hillary Clinton, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, German chancellor Angela Merkel, US attorney-general Loretta Lynch, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and others.
Describing her use of the internet to help people, the article said. “From evacuating Indians from Yemen to helping replace lost passports, Swaraj has earned the nickname ‘the common tweeple’s leader’ for her aggressive use of Twitter.”
As we pay our last respect to the legacy of Sushma Swaraj, we remember her as a politician with a heart, a first that we need more of.