Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj was on Tuesday being praised as a Cupid of sorts after she stepped in to ensure a woman who lost her passport could get a new one in order to join her husband for their honeymoon in Italy.
It all started on Monday when Delhi-based blogger and baker Faizan Patel tweeted a photo of himself on his “honeymoon”, sitting in a train and holding a photo of his wife Sana over an empty seat.
Patel, who tagged Swaraj in the tweet, said: “This is how I am travelling with my wife as of now.” In earlier tweets, he said he had to leave for the honeymoon without his wife on Sunday as she had “misplaced” her passport.
Swaraj, who was reportedly in parliament, replied to Patel about four hours later on Monday.
In a series of developments that appeared to be straight out of a Bollywood movie, Swaraj later said in another tweet her office had reached Patel and that his wife would get a duplicate passport by Tuesday.
But the story soon took another twist when several Twitter users dug out old tweets by Patel that contained derogatory references to Swaraj and were critical of other BJP leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and LK Advani.
Others criticised Patel for reaching out to Swaraj over what they thought was a trivial issue, saying only people in distress should take up passport-related matters with the minister.
People who lose their passports at home and tweet to Ms. Swaraj, seriously? Makes a mockery of people genuinely in distress.— Pankaj Sachdeva (@sachdeva_pankaj) August 8, 2016
lol.. how embarrassing @faizanpatel must be feeling after all old tweets creeping out.. some really vulgar and abusive ones too.— Half Plate Momos (@adult_kid) August 9, 2016
Swaraj, who has 5.5 million followers on Twitter, is known for her prompt responses to people who approach her with problems, especially expatriates in the Middle East. In recent months, she has responded to requests for the repatriation of bodies of Indians who died abroad and the treatment of sick citizens abroad.
More recently, she stepped in to help thousands of Indians who were in a precarious situation in Saudi Arabia after losing their jobs. She also responded to appeals for help from the family of Judith D’Souza, an Indian aid worker who was kidnapped in Kabul and briefly helped before she was freed.
Swaraj’s Twitter outreach has also resulted in unusual situations – such as a request for help from a man who complained he had bought a “defective refrigerator”. Her response: “Brother I cannot help you in matters of a Refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress.”
An official of the external affairs ministry, who did not want to be named, deflected criticism from some quarters on whether it was proper for a senior minister such as Swaraj to spend so much time on Twitter.
“The external affairs minister watches her Twitter handle round the clock and is always keen on helping people who are in distress. For example, there have been instances when she gave instructions to officials or forwarded such tweets as late as 3 am,” the official said.