New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that Sushma Swaraj as external affairs minister transformed her ministry from being bound to protocol to one oriented to "people's call" and recalled she had urged him to deliver his first UN speech from a prepared text and not speak impromptu.
Joined by leaders from all major parties, Modi paid rich tributes to the BJP stalwart, who died last week, at a condolence meeting here. The prime minister said he learnt a lot from her and then spoke about his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, months after he had assumed the office for the first time. After she received him, he suggested that they sit together as he had to deliver his speech the next day, Modi said.
Swaraj enquired where his speech was and he said he never writes his speeches as he finds it difficult. "She said, 'aisa nahi hota hai bhai' (It does work like this brother). 'You have to speak about India to the world. You cannot speak as you wish'. I was prime minister and she was my colleague minister taking care of the external affairs ministry...," Modi said. The prime minister said he had undertaken a long travel and was also on fast due to 'navratra' but she insisted he share his thoughts.
The ministry prepared a draft speech for him, he said. "It was her request...One may be a fine orator but there are some forums which have their own traditions. This was the first lesson Sushma ji had taught me," he said, adding that she had the courage to speak what she believed to be right. Referring to Swaraj's prompt response to Indians facing problems abroad or related to the ministry, he said she transformed the ministry.
"She changed this whole thrust in the ministry about protocol into people's call... India is with all Indians living abroad in their pain irrespective of the colour of their passports," he said. The number of 'Passport Seva Kendra' rose to 505 under her from around only 77, he said. Remembering her, Modi said the BJP leader also had a "Haryanvi touch" as she put across her points forcefully if she believed she was right.
Noting that she died hours after expressing her joy as Parliament passed the government's resolution to abrogate provisions of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the prime minister said she was very happy and died peacefully. Swaraj had tweeted on August 6 that she had been waiting to see this day in her life. Hours later, she suffered a massive heart stroke and passed away.
BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and party's working president J P Nadda, besides Anand Sharma of the Congress, Rajiv Ranjan of JD(U) Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress, Pinaki Misra of the BJD, LJP's Ram Vilas Paswan, Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant and opposition leader Sharad Yadav were among others who spoke at the condolence meeting. Representatives of AIADMK, DMK and TRS also spoke.