26 May-2014: If there’s something that’s bound to make Nawaz Sharif a little queasy at Narendra Modi’s swearing-in, it’s not the absence of chicken biryani at the dinner table, but the presence of Sushma Swaraj, who is being touted as the new external affairs minister of the country (though no official confirmation has been received). No one can blame the Pakistan Prime Minister given Swaraj’s penchant for fiery rhetoric. While visiting the family of Lance Naik Hemraj — who was allegedly beheaded by Pakistan Army infiltrators on 8 January — Swaraj said, “If his (Hemraj’s) head could not be brought back (from Pakistan), we should get at least 10 heads from their side.”
Some would say that the statement against Pakistan is quintessential Sushma Swaraj – bold, aggressive, and made for instant media attention. It’s the kind of fire in the belly that made her a highly effective leader of the Opposition on the floor of the House, flaying the UPA, relentlessly and effectively on a gamut of issues – from FDI to Coalgate, from the Chinese incursion to price rise. Swaraj’s stature ought to have made a significant portfolio inevitable. However, with rumours of discord with Narendra Modi doing the rounds of the political circles, there was widespread speculation that she would be sidelined. Firstpost’s political editor Sanjay Singh noted in an earlier article that Swaraj’s ride to the cabinet will be a bumpy one.
“Sources in the BJP have said that Sushma Swaraj wants to head the external affairs ministry. The foreign ministry is one of the most significant ministries of the country and is especially of great importance to Modi, given his history of discord with the West.The external affairs minister also become a part of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
“However, given Swaraj’s conflicted relationship with Modi, it is not clear what role she would get to play in the government, her expertise notwithstanding. Right before the results were declared, Swaraj had reportedly told Singh and Gadkari that she doesn’t wish to be a part of a Modi government – that might go against her now. Given that the massive mandate BJP has clinched is being largely attributed to Modi, there’s little room for negotiations by others.
“A BJP leader said that Modi’s critics will have to fall in line or stay out of his way – and this was made clear in the Parliamentary Board meet attended by all top BJP leaders.”
Swaraj’s history of discord with Modi, most recently, can be traced back to the time when BJP was caught in the midst of an internal strife with LK Advani opposing the Gujarat CM’s nomination as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. When Advani protested and then quit, BJP reportedly turned to Swaraj to dissuade the veteran leader. While Swaraj obliged, she never criticised Advani, nor hailed Modi’s ascent in the party. She is known to harbour a healthy amount of distrust for Modi and his meteoric rise within the party. She had remain tight-lipped on the BJP’s side-lining of the old guard – and when most BJP leaders gave sound-bytes galore to the media defending its decision. Even recently, post BJP’s win, Swaraj was probably the only person who refrained from heaping profuse applause on Modi. Speaking to the media as the imminence of a BJP victory became evident, she thanked BJP workers and the country — without mentioning Narendra Modi. While she immediately set the heated speculation to rest by quickly tweeting an acknowledgement of her party leader, the questions about her role in the new Modi sarkaar were never put to rest — until now.
(Input source: FP)