Sushma Swaraj, people's leader, had entered into politics in 1977 as a member of the Janata Party and was elected to the Haryana Assembly. Swaraj was the youngest Cabinet minister, given charge of Labour and Employment. In her 40 years of a political career, Swaraj had a special connection with Karnataka's Bellary, since she was fielded from there by the BJP against Sonia Gandhi. However, Sushma lost the battle to Gandhi, but that didn’t stop her from visiting Bellary.
For nearly 15 years since 1999, Sushma never failed to celebrate Varamahalakshmi festival every year in Bellary (now Ballari), despite unsuccessfully contesting from the constituency. Swaraj lost to Sonia Gandhi by a very small margin in Bellary.
Swaraj had announced that “as a daughter of Bellary” she would come there to celebrate the festival as long as she is alive.
Other than her bond with Bellary, Swaraj's rivalry with Congress the then President Sonia Gandhi is well known to everyone.
BJP fielding Swaraj opposite Gandhi, gave rise to unsaid enmity between the two leaders, which projected Swaraj as the modern Indian woman as opposed to Sonia Gandhi's 'Italy-born invader' image. The “Sushma versus Sonia” polls, was fought on the lines of “Beti versus Bahu”.
In 2004, their rivalry reached an entirely new level when the UPA had secured a majority in the Lok Sabha polls and Swaraj threatened to shave her head and don a white saree-- if Sonia Gandhi became the prime minister.
The Swaraj-Gandhi rivalry continued for decades when in 2015, demand for Sushma Swaraj's resignation gained ground in the eventful monsoon session of Parliament. Then Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi raised Swaraj's family's connection to Lalit Modi.
Later, Sushma Swaraj explained her stand on Lalit Modi controversy. Sonia Gandhi rejected Swaraj's claims as "theatrics" while Rahul Gandhi said the whole matter was kept a secret as is done in a "theft".
Since then, the political rivalry had only cooled down, up to a level where the two leaders Sonia and Swaraj even began exchanging pleasantries.
However, when the unfortunate news of Swaraj's demise made way Tuesday night, the Congress party was among the first one to pour its condolences. "We are saddened to hear about the untimely demise of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Our condolences to her family and loved ones," the Congress said. Rahul Gandhi also took to Twitter to express his grief and so did many other Congress leaders.
Former Union Minister and senior BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj passed away late Tuesday at Delhi's AIIMS after she had suffered a massive cardiac arrest. She was 67. Her mortal remains will be kept at the BJP headquarters for three hours on Wednesday, for party workers and leaders to pay tributes. The last rites of Sushma Swaraj will be performed at the Lodhi crematorium at 3 pm today.
Watch: Sushma Swaraj's election rally in Bellary in August 1999