Andhra Pradesh

Vizagites recall Sushma Swaraj’s compassion, steely grit

File photo of Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Visakhapatnam in 1999.

File photo of Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Visakhapatnam in 1999.  

The former Foreign Minister had visited the city only once in 1999 to campaign for K. Hari Babu during the Assembly elections

On June 29, 2016, Mangipudi Sai Srinivas, a civil engineer from Visakhapatnam, and his colleague Anish Sharma from Karnataka, were abducted by unidentified persons from Gboko town in the Benue State of North-central Nigeria.

It took almost 18 days for the Indian Government and the officials of Dangote Cement Plc plant and Nigerian officials to secure their release. During this period, Mr. Srinivas’s family faced a harrowing time, spending sleepless nights anxious for his return.

Their fears were assuaged to a great extent when, four days after the incident, the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called up Ms. M. Lalita, wife of Mr. Srinivas, and assured her of her husband’s a quick and safe return.

“We were in touch with the External Affairs Minister through the then District Collector N. Yuvraj, but never expected the Minister herself to call us and assure us of my husband’s safe return,” Ms. Lalita said.

“We were all glued to the TV during that period, and Ms. Swaraj’s response was timely and reassuring for us. It also reaffirmed her strong character and her concern for Indians stuck in troubled areas abroad,” said Mr. Seshagiri Rao, a close acquaintance of the abducted engineer.

These memories came flooding back when news of Ms. Swaraj’s untimely death reached denizens late on Tuesday night.

‘Go-getter’

Ms. Swaraj demonstrated that she was a go-getter and had a steely sense of resolve, as was evident in her email to the District Collector, said local officials.

“She not only assured us that the Foreign Ministry was dealing with its counterpart in Nigeria on a war-footing, but also cleared the air that the abduction was not done by the dreaded Boko Haram terror group of Nigeria. This assurance was like music to our ears, during that distressing time,” said P.V. Ravi Kumar, the then Additional DCP (Special Branch), Vizag City Police.

Senior BJP Leader P.V. Chalapathi Rao, who knew Ms. Swaraj closely, recollected, “She had come only once to Vizag to campaign for Mr. K. Hari Babu during the 1999 Assembly elections. It was raining heavily and despite thatm she insisted that she would address the gathering. Ms. Swaraj did so in her inimitable style and floored the audience with her oratory skills, despite being drenched in rain.”

‘Enamoured by Vizag’

Mr. Prithviraj, who was the BJP city president, then accompanied Ms. Swaraj from Bellary in Karnataka to Vizag in a special flight.

“We reached the city in a special flight, a day after her polling in Bellary, where she was fighting against Sonia Gandhi. She was visibly tired and was running a high temperature, but despite that her energy levels were envious, even for young leaders like us. As the flight was about to descend, she was enamoured by the beauty of the city and said that Vizag was one of the most beautiful cities she had seen,” Mr. Prithviraj recollected.

“Ms. Swaraj spoke in two meetings held at Durgalamma Guddi and Saraswati Theatre Junction and had to cancel the Kancharapalem meeting due to her health condition and the rains. She had utmost respect for party cadres and addressed everyone as ‘bhaiya ji’”, he said.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 4:57:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/vizagites-recall-sushma-swarajs-compassion-steely-grit/article28873331.ece

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