Till recently, Sushma Swaraj’s introduction on Twitter read: Fought 10 direct elections already. This is (the) 11th.
For a party short of experienced leaders who are not so advanced in terms of age, the 62-year-old leader’s introduction is a big deal. At various points in her career, she has been the youngest cabinet minister in a state government, a Union minister, chief minister of Delhi, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Rajya Sabha MP. No wonder many considered her as the natural successor to party veterans Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.
IN OPPOSITION AGAIN
But now she has painted herself into a corner where a conflict with the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi seems inevitable if the party comes to power. Swaraj, who was clearly in the Advani camp opposing the anointment of Modi as PM candidate, made matters worse for herself last week by speaking out against the treatment meted out to senior leader Jaswant Singh.
Her friends say it is characteristic of Swaraj to bristle at the very suggestion of being sidelined in party matters.
She has tried to reach out to Modi occasionally, taking it upon herself to announce the launch of his Chai Pe Charcha events. But outsiders have the impression that such overtures are half-hearted and that she’s is a party pooper at a time when the BJP can smell power.
But it is a testament to her continuing appeal that despite the Modi euphoria, her supporters are standing by her and see her as the dark horse if Modi fails to deliver the numbers. In fact, the late Bal Thackeray had picked her as his choice for PM.
This is not the first time Swaraj is going through a low phase. After replacing Sahib Singh Verma as Delhi CM in 1998, she led the BJP to a humiliating defeat in the national capital.
Inevitably for a person with strong likes and dislikes, she has had her share of controversies.
One was when she was photographed with her hands on the heads of the tainted Reddy brothers of Bellary, apparently blessing them.
Her office in Parliament House has a glittering portrait of Lord Krishna.
“Banke Bihari inspires me. He played many roles in his lifetime and played all of them quite perfectly,” she once told this reporter. Let’s see what role she plays after the Lok Sabha poll results are declared on May 16.