'Not retiring from politics,' Sushma Swaraj, clarifies on Twitter, but won't contest Lok Sabha polls for health reasons

Senior BJP leader and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday announced that she will not contest the next Lok Sabha election due to health reasons, however, she later clarified on Twitter that she is not retiring from politics as yet.

The 66-year-old leader, who is serving her fourth term in the House and has long been her party's most prominent woman face, told reporters, "It is the party which decides, but I have made up my mind not to contest the next (Lok Sabha) elections due to health reasons."

The Union minister in a tweet said that she was not retiring from politics. Her tweet was in response to Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta's comment that her retirement from electoral politics does not imply that she was retiring from politics altogether and that there is a great deal of contribution she can make to public life despite not being in the Lok Sabha.

Swaraj also replied to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor's tweet, thanking him for his "kind words". Tharoor in his tweet had said that he always found Swaraj a gracious EAM and was sorry that she will leave the Parliament.

File image of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

File image of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

Swaraj's husband Swaraj Kaushal also posted "thank you" on Twitter and said even Milkha Singh stopped running. A spellbinding orator in Hindi, Swaraj is among the few top politicians capable of speaking in English with equal ease and has had a few rare distinctions, including being the youngest cabinet minister at 25 when she joined the Haryana government in 1977 and the first woman chief minister of Delhi.

She is also the first woman to hold individual charge of the external affairs minister of the country. Indira Gandhi was the first woman to hold the portfolio, but she did so while also being the Prime Minister of India. Swaraj has also served in the Rajya Sabha for three terms and was a member of the Haryana Assembly — the state she comes from — twice. She started her political life with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the RSS' student wing, and later joined the BJP.

Her speeches, grasp on issues and image of an ideal Indian woman marked her out for a bigger role at a very young age, and she steadily climbed up the organisational ladder in the BJP. She was the Information and Broadcasting Minister in the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1996 and got the same portfolio again after Vajpayee led the BJP to power in 1998.

However, she had to resign to become Delhi chief minister as the party leadership believed she could lead the BJP to power in the national capital when the incumbent was seen as unpopular. Her short tenure, though, was of little help as the party lost badly. Swaraj's most notable political battle was the one against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Bellary in 1999 Lok Sabha polls. She was her party's nationalist woman counter to Sonia, often attacked by the BJP for her Italian origins.

Swaraj's intensive campaign, during which she gained proficiency in Kannada, won her innumerable local hearts with her speeches in their language, but Gandhi, who was fighting her first Lok Sabha election in a region then seen as her party's pocket borough, got better of her. Swaraj fell short of victory but grew in stature. Long seen as a protege of veteran BJP leader LK Advani, she was also the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha between 2009-14.

Swaraj had undergone kidney transplant in 2016. "After being elected from Vidisha as Lok Sabha MP, I was the Leader of Opposition. Later I was given the responsibility of External Affairs Ministry. Despite holding these prime posts, I used to visit all Assembly segments in my constituency every month for nearly eight years. Doctors have advised me that I should avoid exposure to dust. Because of this, I am unable to take part even in election rallies," she said, adding, "Due to health reasons, I cannot participate in outdoor public programmes.... I have also told my party leadership, that in view of health reasons, I have to avoid such exposure."

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 13:47:56 IST

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