Hours before her sudden demise on Tuesday of a massive cardiac arrest, former foreign affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the move to repeal special status to Jammu and Kashmir. In many ways, the tweet epitomised the last years of an illustratious public career.
Swaraj was an astute politician and a veteran leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She was a fiery orator and the party’s go-to leader in times of trouble. As external affairs minister, she was content playing second fiddle to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who shaped and directed India’s foreign minister.
But it was on Twitter that Swaraj carved out a virtuoso role, unusual for any Indian politician or government official, foreign or Indian.
As foreign minister, Swaraj won accolades for helping distressed Indians abroad on Twitter. She struck a chord with Twitterati with her active presence on the social media platform, willingness to help, charm and a ready wit.
Examples of providing help on Twitter are legion. Be it Indians stranded in conflict zones, facing visa problems or those who lost passports, Swaraj was quick with offering help. Distressed Indians around the world knew Swaraj would help resolve their troubles via Twitter.
Swaraj assuaged concerned citizens, sometimes calling them “my child” and assuring them of help at ahnd.
The international media loved it. BuzzFeed praised Swaraj as “the most badass foreign minister on the Internet”. The Washington Post called her Crusading Supermom of State.
The Post wondered: “Imagine (the then) US Secretary of State John F Kerry personally helping Americans who tweet to him about their troubles abroad every day.”
Thanks to Twitter, Swaraj’s panache for humour
was also on display. When someone complained to her that a company had sold him a defective refrigerator, she replied: “Brother I cannot help you in matters of a refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress.”
Little wonder she was one of the most-followed politicians on Twitter.At the time of her death, she had 13.1 million followers. She followed no one.
First Published: IST