Political ideologies aside, Sushma Swaraj and Sheila Dikshit were leaders who defined grace

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From opposing political parties, espousing completely different ideologies, Sushma Swaraj and Sheila Dikshit shared a common trait: fierce opposition to policies but warm personal relations with their adversaries.

Sheila Dikshit with Sushma Swaraj at the 14th meeting of National Integration Council in New Delhi in 2008.

Less than three weeks after former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit passed, her immediate predecessor Sushma Swaraj bid farewell late on Tuesday.

From opposing political parties, espousing completely different ideologies, they shared a common trait: fierce opposition to policies but warm personal relations with their adversaries.

Ms Swaraj was not only the youngest Cabinet minister in Haryana in the  government in 1977 but also one of the youngest in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 1998-2004.


She grew in stature, established herself to be a powerful orator and an efficient minister and someone who would do things her way.  I recall reading or perhaps watching an old interview where she was asked about work and pressures of being mother, she had replied she would do small things like carrying ice cream for her daughter.

If she got too late, she said, ice cream vendors at India Gate would come to her rescue.  In an old interview to NDTV, she maintained how it was a matter of routine for her to have lunch with her husband, Swaraj Kaushal, when she was in town. "No matter what my schedule is, I always make it a point to have lunch with my husband,"she told the reporter in a 1998 interview.


That's again a trait that Ms  Dikshit shared as she was known to eat, at least, one meal (either lunch or dinner) with her family members including her grandchildren. In fact, even in their political journey, they had somewhat of a similar journey.

In 1998, the BJP was hit by the Jain Hawala diaries, infighting between two stalwarts -- Madan Lal Khurana and Saheb Singh Verma -- and an issue that made everyone cry. Prices of onions had touched a new, brought tears to the middle class and the BJP's last resort was to appoint Ms Swaraj to save the day.

She couldn't in the few months she got as Chief Minister but surely left a mark in the minds of the people.  A year later, in 1999, she took on Sonia Gandhi from Bellary in a fight that her party was keen to project as a fight between two cultures, between an Italian bahu and a Bharatiya mahila.

She lost the fight but consolidated her image of being a powerful orator who could even speak a few sentences to crowds in Kannada.

In this file photo dated July 26, 2003, the then Delhi chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is seen with then Health Minister Sushma Swaraj at an event.


Ms Swaraj, later on, shared a warm personal relation with Sonia Gandhi as members of the Lok Sabha but maintained her opposition on a person of foreign origin becoming India's Prime Minister.

On August 26, 2013, as Leader of the Opposition (LOP), Ms Swaraj was fiercely arguing on some provisions of the Food Security Act that was pushed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.  But when Ms Gandhi suddenly left the Lok Sabha after being taken seriously ill and was rushed to AIIMS, the LOP was among the first few leaders to inquire about her health.

Like Ms Swaraj, the former three-time Delhi Chief Minister too used to be paratrooped by her party depending on their requirements. After helming the affairs in Delhi for over a decade, Ms Dikshit was made the face of the party in Uttar Pradesh (UP) during the 2017 Assembly elections, reportedly on the advice of election strategist Prashant Kishor.

Despite best efforts, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) tie-up had not worked out and the election strategist wanted Congress to project a Brahmin face from the UPA. Ms Dikshit, who until then was known as a moderniser of Delhi,  fit the description as the daughter-in-law of late Pandit Uma Shankar Diskhit. However, within weeks, she was abandoned, after the Congress tied up with the SP for the Assembly elections that proved to be a disaster for both.

Once again, Ms Dikshit rose to the challenge in January this year of turning around the fortunes of her party in Delhi and contested the election against Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari from North East Delhi. She lost to Tiwari by a huge margin but didn't lose her civility as she invited him for a cup of tea and shared her thoughts on improving Delhi.

Despite having opposing political ideologies, both politicians defined grace in a way that is slowly but surely getting extinct now.

Leaders pay tribute to Sushma Swaraj

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