She was the second woman, after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to become the External Affairs Minister of the nation.
Born in Ambala Cantonment on 14th February, 1952, her father Hardev Sharma was an important member of the RSS. Her parents had associations with Dharampura region in Lahore in today’s Pakistan. She received her education in Sanskrit and Political Science at the Sanatan Dharma College in Ambala Cantt. After her education, she studied law at the Punjab University in Chandigarh.
Swaraj was a powerful speaker. She won the award for the best speaker in Hindi in a state level competition organised by the language department in Haryana three times.
She began her political career with the ABVP in 1970. Her husband Swaraj Kaushal was connected with the socialist leader George Fernandes and Swaraj became part of his legal defence team in 1975. In 1973, she started her legal practice in the Supreme Court. She also participated enthusiastically in the JP Movement.
After the emergency, she joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and ascended gradually through the party ranks. In July 1977, she became a cabinet minister in the Janta party-led government of Devi Lal in Haryana.
She was merely 25 at the time and the youngest member of the Vidhan Sabha. She also became the state party president of the Janatay Party in Haryana at the age of 27.
In April 1990, she entered national politics and became a member of the Rajya Sabha. She was elected as a Member of Parliament for the first time in 1996 from South Delhi. She became the Information and Broadcasting Minister in the 13-day Vajpayee government in 1996. In October 1998, she resigned from the Central government to become the first woman chief minister of Delhi. BJP was unable to win Vidhan Sabha elections in Delhi and Swaraj re-entered national politics.
In 1999, she contested against Congress National President Sonia Gandhi from the Bellary Parliamentary seat in Karnataka. She campaigned in Kannada and was able to garner more than 3 and a half lakh votes in just 12 days of campaigning. She lost to Sonia Gandhi by a margin of just 7%.
She assumed the charge of Foreign Minister during the first Narendra Modi government and was instrumental in implementing India’s new Foreign Policy. She addressed the UN General Assembly on two occasions and was praised for forcefully calling out Pakistan in her address on an international forum.
She was elected Member of Parliament 7 times and Member of Legislative Assembly 3 times. She is fondly remembered by her colleagues and political opponents alike.
Her political career and tenures as Minister in various governments leaves an indelible mark on India’s political landscape.