New Delhi: Describing former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj as an epitome of grace and grit, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said in her untimely demise, the nation has lost an able administrator, an effective parliamentarian and a true voice of the people.
The Upper House paid glowing tributes to the senior BJP leader, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 67. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House. When the House met for the day, Chairman Naidu read out an obituary reference on passing away of the senior leader and said she was "grace, grit, affection, amiability and ability personified".
"In her untimely demise, the nation has lost an able administrator, an effective parliamentarian and a true voice of the people. She always dreamt of an India at its highest glory," he said.
Mourning the demise "as a personal loss", he expressed hope that the words and deeds of this exemplary leader will continue to inspire all those in public life. "She was like my sister who always addressed me as 'Anna' (elder brother). She was a regular at family and cultural events at my residence for a long time. Every year, on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, she used to tie 'Rakhi' on my hand. I would be missing this honour this year. I have lost a valuable sister in her demise, which is an irreparable loss to me," Naidu said.
He said Swaraj was a very effective orator with equal felicity in both Hindi and English and left an inerasable imprint both within and outside Parliament. A couple of hours before she breathed her last, her public message after Lok Sabha passed the Bill related to Jammu and Kashmir was: "I was waiting to see this day in my life time," Naidu noted, adding this clearly demonstrated her commitment for 'One India- One Constitution'.
Naidu said destiny has snatched the popular leader with her "assuring and contagious smile from our midst." She was a Member of this House for three terms- from April, 1990 to April, 1996; from April, 2000 to April, 2006; and again from April, 2006 to May, 2009, he said.
She was also elected four times to the Lok Sabha in 1996, 1998, 2009 and 2014. She was first elected to the Haryana Legislative Assembly in 1977. As Union Minister, she held the important portfolios of External Affairs, Health and Family Welfare, Parliamentary Affairs and Information and Broadcasting and won acclaim across the political spectrum, Naidu said.
As a legislator and minister in the Union and Haryana Governments and with her commitment and devotion to the cause of the people and the country in her four-decade long stint in public life, Swaraj emerged as a role model, Naidu said.
He recalled how as minister of External Affairs, she imparted a human touch to that ministry by being in the forefront of rescuing Indians in distress in several parts of the world. She had come to be known as the most accessible Minister, which speaks of her concern for and commitment to the people, he said.
Naidu also said that Swaraj had several firsts to her credit. She was the youngest minister at the age of 25 years in the Haryana Government in 1977 and was the first woman to be the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha. She was also the first Woman Outstanding Parliamentarian.
Swaraj was the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998. From being the youngest minister, she rose to become the first full time minister of External Affairs. Born on February 14, 1952 in Ambala Cantonment in Haryana, the 67-year-old Swaraj had studied Law at Panjab University.
Naidu said the call of direct service to the people drew her to public life and she participated in the movement led by Jaiprakash Narayan and was elected to the Haryana Legislative Assembly after the Emergency in 1977.
Since then, she took up several electoral challenges with a smile, demonstrating grit and grace, both in victory and defeat. Members rose in their places and observed silence as a mark of respect to the memory of the departed.
Naidu also asked the Secretary-General to convey to the members of the bereaved family the sense of the House of profound sorrow and deep sympathy.