Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, one of the most admired political leaders across party lines, died on Tuesday. She was 67. Among the most active Indian leaders on social media, she had a huge following on Twitter and leaves behind a legacy of an easily-accessible minister who helped Indians abroad in distress with her quick responses to requests for help.
Known for her helpful interventions, she became a beacon of hope for thousands - from Indians stranded in conflict zones to foreigners requesting urgent visas for medical treatment. Even banal or requests made in jest drew a response from Sushma Swaraj.
Even while she was unwell and underwent a kidney transplant in 2016, she was responding to people's SOS messages - like that of a Twitter user from London seeking help in renewing his visa because of a medical emergency.
While tensions grew with Pakistan, Sushma Swaraj kept helping citizens from the country who needed visas for treatment in India.
Two years ago, responding to a joking request from a Twitter user, she said, that if in genuine need, they would be rescued by the Indian embassy even if they were "stuck on Mars".
Even if you are stuck on the Mars, Indian Embassy there will help you. https://t.co/Smg1oXKZXD- Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 8, 2017
When new Foreign Minister S Jaishankar took over from her in May this year, he wrote how he was "proud to follow on the footsteps of Sushma Swaraj".
Besides helping people on Twitter, Sushma Swaraj will also be remembered for several path-breaking measures such as the passport infrastructure expansion and enhanced engagement with the East. She was only the second woman to hold the portfolio after Indira Gandhi, who briefly kept the external affairs ministry under her while being the prime minister.
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