On Sunday, when Sushma Swaraj tweeted, "This is how (the then) Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar treated the Leader of Opposition" and posted a 6.23 minute video of the Budget Session of 2013 along with the link of a newspaper report headlined 'Speaker interrupted Sushma 60 times in 6-min speech', she let go of her self-imposed restriction that as the Minister of External Affairs she should not air her views on domestic political issues.
This is how Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar treated the Leader of Opposition - https://t.co/hxHWHaJ4D9
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 25, 2017
She may argue that elections of any kind bring an entirely different scenario into play where political executives, irrespective of their official position in the government, assume the role of a party campaigner and the presidential election is no exception. Journalists who covered Parliament have been witness to frequent rows between Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in 15th Lok Sabha, and Kumar, Speaker of Lok Sabha, during the same period. They never had a good working relationship. Swaraj is a powerful orator and a feisty parliamentarian, however, the nation has not heard much of her assertive trademark speeches ever since she became the external affairs minister in May 2014. Though she has proved to be an efficient foreign minister, she has consciously kept a low profile in public space. Except for a few occasions in Parliament on subjects related to her ministry where she gave her detailed responses, she has chosen to be economical with words — tweet more, speak less. Her Sunday's tweet was a reminder of her forgotten oratory skills and how aggressively she used to take on the UPA as the Leader of Opposition. With the tweet highlighting Kumar's partisan attitude, while she held the post of a Speaker, Swaraj has done her bit as a BJP leader by taking on the joint Opposition's presidential candidate. The Pioneer piece substantiated her point.
Incidentally, it came on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his interactions with Indians in the US, profusely praised Swaraj's abilities as a minister and as someone who has made the best use of social media — Twitter in particular — to help distressed Indians abroad. She has responded to tweets at 2 am and ensured help reached the people concerned within 20 hours — a manifestation of good governance. Modi also said that the Ministry of External Affairs used to be for people in suits, but under the current government, it has connected with the poor Indians on foreign soil. It should be recalled that Modi and Swaraj in May 2014 had began with a perceived trust deficit.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) June 25, 2017
Swaraj's name was taken in some quarters as a possible presidential candidate of the BJP. However, the honour was given to Dalit leader and former Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind. She may not regret missing out the opportunity of occupying the highest constitutional post in the country where she is one of the senior most ministers.
Before the presidential candidate was decided by the BJP, the names of Swaraj and some of the other senior party colleagues were being considered for the post of president and vice-president. After the new president takes over on 25 July, the question of vice-presidential nominee would open. Swaraj again would be one of the contenders for the post. The vice-president is also the Rajya Sabha chairman. She had been in the Rajya Sabha and has good working relationships with the Opposition leaders and all NDA allies.
BJP sources suggest that while deciding on the name of the vice-presidential nominee, the key criteria before Modi and Amit Shah would be to pick a person who would ensure smooth functioning of the Upper House. The Modi government has only two years to go and it is important that the Upper House functions rather smoothly and pass key laws without much of a hassle.
The question then arises what does Modi's praise for Swaraj mean. It is open to interpretations — first, she is very useful as a foreign minister and should not be spared for other assignment; second, she is a smart leader who can adapt to new challenges.
Published Date: Jun 26, 2017 18:58 PM | Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 19:17 PM