The year 2019 saw the deaths of several key faces in Indian politics, especially in the BJP. From Manohar Parrikar to Sushma Swaraj and Arun NJP, the ruling party lost some of its most recognizable faces in the year. For the Congress, the death of Sheila Dikshit left a leadership vacuum in the Delhi unit of the party as it braces of the Delhi state election in 2020. The theatre and literary world lost Girish Karnad. Legions of his admirers miss the playwright not just for his literary skills but also for defence of freedom of expression. The death of Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley marked the end of "Delhi-4" or "D4", a term used by some in the BJP to refer to the proteges of veteran leader LK Advani. The other two members of the quartet are M Venkaiah Naidu, who is no longer in active politics since being appointed Vice President, and Ananth Kumar who died in November 2018. These leaders were mostly based in the national capital and virtually ran the show in the organisation due to their proximity to Mr Advani.
Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa and former defence minister, died at 69 on March 17. He died after a long illness. A three-time Chief Minister of Goa, Mr Parrikar was known for his impeccable record and simple lifestyle. Remembered as the one of the tallest leaders from Goa, he was a leader accessible to the people and moved around without any hassle. A technocrat-turned politician, he had started as a functionary of the BJP's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, before entering active politics. Manohar Parrikar kept the fractious coalition in Goa running, even when he was making public appearances with a nasal tube and supported by aides, at the peak of his battle with a pancreatic condition.
Sheila Dikshit was a veteran Congress politician and the longest-serving Chief Minister of Delhi, having held the top job for 15 years. The 88-year-old died of a cardiac arrest at a private hospital on July 20. Ms Dikshit is credited for Delhi's growing infrastructure including roads, flyovers and public transport system. She served as Delhi's Chief Minister for three consecutive terms between 1998 and 2013. She was succeeded by Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal. After her stint as Delhi Chief Minister, she was sworn in as Kerala's Governor in 2014, but resigned in just six months. Earlier this year, Sheila Dikshit was made the Delhi Congress chief. She contested the Lok Sabha election but lost to the BJP's Manoj Tiwari.
Sushma Swaraj, former foreign minister and BJP veteran, died on August 6 after a cardiac arrest, leaving political leaders and her legions of admirers in grief. She was 67. Ms Swaraj was easily one of India's most-admired political leaders. She left a legacy of an easily-accessible politician who helped Indians abroad in distress with her quick response on Twitter to requests for help when she was the foreign minister. Even banal or joking requests drew a response from Sushma Swaraj.
Arun Jaitley, former Finance Minister and BJP veteran, died on August 24. The 66-year-old died at Delhi's premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where he had been admitted for two weeks. One of the most trusted ministers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Jaitley was acknowledged as the ultimate backroom strategist and a key troubleshooter of the party. As a minister, he had steered major economic legislation, including the flagship Goods and Services Tax, and defended controversial government policies. Ailing for several years, the lawyer-turned-politician had requested PM Modi to be allowed time to recuperate before taking any fresh responsibility, when the BJP won a second term in power in May.
Jnanpith Award-winning playwright Girish Karnad died in Bengaluru on June 10. He was 81. Mr Karnad was a huge figure in the Kannada literary scene. He was also active in the world of cinema; he made his acting and screenwriting debut in a Kannada movie "Samskara" in 1970. His most memorable role - that of Swami's father - was in "Malgudi Days", a television adaptation of RK Narayan's timeless and enchanting collection of short stories about the sleepy, fictional town of Malgudi in south India. In his later years, Girish Karnad used his literary skills as a platform to fight religious fundamentalism and defend freedom of expression. Despite receiving numerous death threats, he never backed down from expressing his views. In April, he was among some 200 writers from across the country who put out an open letter against the "politics of hate"
George Fernandes, a former Defence Minister of India, died at 88 on January 28. He was India's defence minister in the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee when India fought the Kargil war in 1999. He was of the most prominent leaders of the socialist movement in the 1970s. Mr Fernandes was jailed during the 1975 Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government for what was dubbed the "Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy" to blow up government establishments and railway tracks. The fiery politician came to be known as "giant killer" when he defeated veteran Congress leader SK Patil in Mumbai during the Lok Sabha election in 1967.
KM Mani was Kerala's longest serving MLA who has also served as the state's finance minister in the Congress-led UDF government. He holds the record of presenting the maximum number of budgets in Kerala assembly at 13. He died on April 9. He was 86. Mr Mani was an MLA of Pala assembly constituency for 50 consecutive years, since 1965. He was forced to quit as finance minister from the Oommen Chandy-led government in November 2015 after the Kerala High Court's observations against him in a bribery case, casting a shadow over his career.
Ram Jethmalani was one of India's well-known lawyers and a former union minister. He died on September 8. He was 95. A six-time Rajya Sabha member, Ram Jethmalani served as a Union Minister in the United Front and the BJP-led NDA governments. In 2016, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha on RJD ticket. Mr Jethmalani was known for his robust arguments and fought many high-profile cases in the Supreme Court, High Courts in many states and even trial courts. He had defended several top politicians such as LK Advani, Lalu Prasad Yadav, J Jayalalithaaa and Arvind Kejriwal.
Former Chief Election Commissioner TN Seshan was an icon of Indian bureaucracy for ushering in tectonic reforms in the country's electoral process during his tenure in the nineties. He died of a cardiac arrest on November 10. He was 86. The retired IAS officer is best known for and is credited with flexing the electon body's far-reaching constitutional powers to keep politicians in check. However, seen as too much of a hurdle by the political class, it was during his tenure that two additional Election Commissioners were appointed by the centre to clip his wings. He had received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia's Nobel, for his initiatives in making the electoral process more transparent.
Dr Shivakumara Swami headed the Sree Siddaganga Mutt in Karnataka's Tumakuru. He died at 111 on January 21. Shivakumara Swami was often known as "the walking god" and was one of the most respected religious and social practitioners of the Lingayat-Veerashaiva faith of Lingayatism. As the founder of the Sri Siddaganga Education Society, he helped thousands access education. He also had an honorary doctorate in literature. The seer was a philanthropist and touched the lives of many, from different religions and castes.