Today only 14% of MPs in India’s Lok Sabha are women which means out of 543 seats only 78 seats are headed by Indian women. This gross underrepresentation of female political leaders is not a new phenomenon; India has grappled with the issue of gender parity and inequality since before Independence yet there have been several women political leaders who have risen above all odds and paved the way for future aspiring leaders to do the same. One remarkable woman leader that stands out is the late Sushma Swaraj. Known as the Iron Lady of India, she had a larger than life personality: her formidable persona, determination and motivation to serve people was loved and admired by all. In this blog, let us explore the life and teachings of a true leader – Sushma Swaraj!
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“Even if on Mars, India will help you.”
About Sushma Swaraj
Sushma Swaraj was born in Haryana in February 1952 to Hardev Sharma and Shrimati Laxmi Devi. A powerful orator and leader, she studied Sanskrit and Political Science at Sanatan Dharma College, Haryana and later pursued Law at Panjab University. Throughout her college, she was actively engaged in student politics. She was known for spearheading several student protests during India’s Emergency and was also actively involved in the Total Revolution Movement in the 1970s.
Sushma Swaraj was also a successful lawyer; she began her law career as an advocate in the Supreme Court of India and served as a member of the legal team of the socialist leader George Fernandes. A staunch opponent of Emergency, Sushma Swaraj as the member of the Janata Party contested state elections in Haryana. She served as the member of the legislative assembly from 1977 to 1982 and then again from 1987 to 1990. As an MLA and an influential party leader, she was in charge of several prominent portfolios like Social Welfare, Labour, Employment, Education, Food and Civil Supplies. Her dedication, intelligence and hard-work ultimately led her to one of the most male-dominated posts in India: The Minister of External Affairs from 2014 to 2019. Swaraj is the only woman to hold this prestigious position after Indira Gandhi.
Teachings Of Sushma Swaraj
There is no dearth to how much you can learn from the late Sushma Swaraj. As a true pioneer, Sushma Swaraj’s journey is a story of success and inspiration.
Following in her fathers’ footsteps, Sushma Swaraj pursued law and remained an active political student leader with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Though she did not have an influential political family to help her navigate her political career, she still managed to become the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana at the age of 25. Henceforth her exemplary political career was marked by authoritative positions; in 1979, she became the State President of Janata Party, then a member of Rajya Sabha in 1990. She served as the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting and also as the first female Chief Minister of Delhi. It was her determination and dedication to the cause of politics that helped her achieve great heights. Her ability to command the political sphere and never back down from a challenge is what makes her such a formidable leader.
“There is an urgent need to tackle the ills of society against women through active participation of all – men, women, society, governments. It is imperative to make women’s empowerment a people’s movement.”
‘Tomorrow might be too late’ were the concluding words of Sushma Swaraj while addressing the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in 2018. These words exemplify the kind of individual the late politician was. Her ability to take charge has been expressed in many ways; as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, she took the bold step of televising Lok Sabha debates for transparency. As the External Affairs Minister, Swaraj massed nearly 13 million followers on her Twitter account and was one of the most followed Indian politicians.
“Reform must begin today, tomorrow might be too late.”
Ability to Reinvent
Sushma Swaraj’s grand social presence was an ode to her ability to reinvent herself. She had the foresight and competence to create a social presence and reach millions through the platform. This foresight made her not just popular, but also one of the most approachable politicians in India. Since then several politicians and leaders have followed in her steps; understanding the importance of social media and ways to utilise the platform to help the citizens and our country is just one of the lessons we can learn from Mrs Swaraj.
Sushma Swaraj’s humility, empathetic nature and willingness to help her citizens anywhere and everywhere in the world was commendable. In 2019, she was awarded the Grand Cross Order of Civil Merit by the Spanish Government for the support and efficiency Indian government displayed in evacuating their citizens during the Nepal earthquake of 2015. From helping several Indians trapped in Iraq to a mother stranded in Yemen; Swaraj did not shy from taking adverse steps to help her citizens. It is her good-nature and humility that touched millions of hearts.
Sushma Swaraj was a leader who had truly internalised the ideals of democracy and the saying: government of the people, for the people and by the people. By eliminating the middleman, she made herself approachable and accessible to millions of Indians. Sushma Swaraj as the External Affairs Minister was truly just a tweet away from her citizens. This level of dedication and availability to the masses has never been shown before in Indian politics nor can it be replicated by other politicians.
Though this may seem like a strange lesson to learn from a politician, it is one of the most valuable ones. Sushma Swaraj’s ability to enjoy life and take joy in her work showed how much she loved her work and career. Her work was not a chore to her but rather something she prided herself on. This is truly one of the most significant takeaways from her life: the ability to enjoy your life and work to the fullest.
Like many politicians, Sushma Swaraj has had a controversial political career. You may not agree with many of her opinions and philosophies, but one cannot deny her influence, charisma and tact as a leader. Hopefully, this blog helped you understand the depth and passion of a true leader and motivated you to change the world. For more informative blogs, stay tuned to Leverage Edu. Follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Quora.