India

Sushma Swaraj: India's popular former foreign minister dies

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Media captionPeople are paying rich tributes to India's most loved foreign minister

Sushma Swaraj, one of India's best known politicians, has died.

Ms Swaraj, who served as foreign minister for five years, suffered a cardiac arrest on Tuesday, the Press Trust of India said.

She was a popular minister in Narendra Modi's first term as prime minister, but did not contest parliamentary elections earlier this year.

She became known for helping Indians stuck abroad by responding to them on Twitter.

Ms Swaraj, 67, had been suffering from poor health and had a kidney transplant in 2016.

Image copyright ANI
Image caption Swaraj is survived by daughter, Bansuri (L), and husband, Swaraj Kaushal

She was cremated with full state honours in the capital Delhi. Senior leaders across political parties and BJP lawmakers, including Prime Minster Narendra Modi, attended the funeral.

The news of her death prompted an outpouring of grief and condolences both from fellow politicians and from Indians across the globe.

"A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end," Mr Modi said on Twitter.

"India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor. Sushma Swaraj Ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration," he said.

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said India had "lost a much loved leader who epitomised dignity, courage & integrity in public life".

"Ever willing to help others, she will always be remembered for her service to the people of India," he wrote on Twitter.

Rahul Gandhi, former president of the Indian National Congress, the official opposition, said he was shocked by Ms Swaraj's sudden death, calling her an "extraordinary political leader, a gifted orator & an exceptional Parliamentarian, with friendships across party lines".

'A state of complete shock'

By Nitin Srivastava, BBC World Service, Delhi

Hundreds who have gathered outside Sushma Swaraj's home are in a state of complete shock.

One of her relatives told the BBC that she was completely glued to the TV screen for the last two days while her party succeeded in revoking Article 370 - which gave special status to Indian-administered Kashmir - in parliament.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sushma Swaraj was a unique figure in Indian politics

Sunjit Singh, a taxi driver was in the queue to pay homage to a leader from his home state of Haryana.

"Only because of her did women in a traditional and conservative state like Haryana dare to come out in public life," he said.

Surviving a kidney transplant, Sushma Swaraj had been battling ill-health for a few years and had opted out of electoral politics in the recently held general elections.

A unique figure in Indian politics, she earned broad admiration for her responsiveness and compassion during her years in office.

For the general public it was her avid use of Twitter that won her the hearts of so many followers and brought her much closer to the county's citizens than most other politicians.

In her time as external affairs minister (as the foreign minister position is called in India), she would often directly respond to Indians overseas in need of diplomatic assistance.

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