Sushma Swaraj, former foreign minister and a senior BJP leader admired across political lines, died on Tuesday evening after a cardiac arrest. She will be cremated with state honours in Delhi this afternoon. "A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who became emotional as he visited her home this morning and spoke with her husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri. In tweets, the PM described her death as a "personal loss" and wrote: "India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor."
Sushma Swaraj, 67, had been unwell for some time and had opted out of contesting the election earlier this year.
She was taken around 9 pm to Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where several BJP leaders and ministers gathered after the news started trickling in.
A former Supreme Court lawyer, Sushma Swaraj was among the top ministers in PM Modi's cabinet in his first term, which ended in May.
Three years ago, she had a kidney transplant and had since drastically reduced her public engagements.
Hours before her death, Ms Swaraj had, in what would be her last tweet, congratulated PM Modi for the move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir and reorganise the state into two union territories.
"Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime," she had tweeted.
. @narendramodi ji - Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) August 6, 2019
One of her party colleagues, Ravi Shankar Prasad, described her as his mentor and said in an emotional tribute: "She was happy about Article 370's abrogation, I read her tweet when I got back home...and then I heard...I feel shattered. Can't describe my grief..."
As Foreign Minister, Ms Swaraj earned praise for responding to SOS messages from Indians across the world; her interventions ranged from seeking information on relatives stranded in avalanches in other countries to helping families bring home a relative's body. An active social media user, she often responded on Twitter to people seeking assistance or just reaching out to her and used her wit to tackle even bizarre messages.
Her kindness, warmth and mellow humour touched many and Twitter was flooded with messages of thanks and good wishes when it became clear that she would not be part of PM Modi's government in its second term.
Long before becoming a social media favourite, Ms Swaraj was widely acclaimed for her oratory, in parliament and outside.
"Sushma Ji was a prolific orator and outstanding Parliamentarian. She was admired and revered across party lines," PM Modi tweeted.
Former President Pranab Mukherjee described her as an "astute parliamentarian, an effective orator and an excellent humane leader". "Hers was a story of hard work to heights," his tweet read.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also mourned her death.
I'm shocked to hear about the demise of Sushma Swaraj Ji, an extraordinary political leader, a gifted orator & an exceptional Parliamentarian, with friendships across party lines.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 6, 2019
My condolences to her family in this hour of grief.
May her soul rest in peace.
We are saddened to hear about the untimely demise of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Our condolences to her family and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/T9wg739c8i— Congress (@INCIndia) August 6, 2019
A nine-time parliamentarian, Ms Swaraj became the youngest minister of a state, Haryana, back in 1977.
She started her political career with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student body linked to the BJP, in the 1970s.
In 1999, Ms Swaraj was fielded against Sonia Gandhi in Bellary in Karnataka at the last moment. She went all in, speaking fluent Kannada during her rallies.
Her vow to shave her head if Italy-born Sonia Gandhi became Prime Minister, when the Congress won the 2004 election, became a memorable milestone of her political career.
After the death of senior party leader Pramod Mahajan in 2006, Ms Swaraj emerged as the most prominent face among the BJP's Gen Next after Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani.
She grew in stature after the BJP, contesting the 2009 Lok Sabha polls under the stewardship of LK Advani, failed to dislodge the Congress-led UPA government from the Centre. Mr Advani, who was then 81, had to make way for Ms Swaraj as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Sushma Swaraj was also chief minister of Delhi, and later held the portfolios of information and broadcasting, and health in the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
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