New Delhi:Union minister Sushma Swaraj, one of the senior most leaders of the ruling BJP and a nine-time parliamentarian, has declared that she will not contest the 2019 national election.
Sushma Swaraj, the Minister for External Affairs, shared the decision with reporters in Madhya Pradesh, where elections will be held later this month. She cited health reasons.
“It is the party which decides, but I have made up my mind not to contest the next elections,” said Ms Swaraj, 66, in Indore. She said she had informed her party.
The revelation as the minister hit out at the suggestion that she had not been “active” in politics for a year because she hadn’t attended election meetings.
“I have not been active for a year because of a kidney condition. You can’t judge whether I am active based on how long I have not attended an election meeting. Today, LK Advani comes to all meetings, blesses us, sits in parliament. To say that I am not active just because I didn’t attend an election meeting for a year…if you think that means I should be out of politics, it is unfair.”
Ms Swaraj is the Lok Sabha MP from Vidisha, around 56 km from state capital Bhopal. Recently, posters had been seen in the town questioning their parliamentarian’s prolonged absence. It was when the media questioned her about the posters that she reportedly announced her decision.
In a tweet, she clarified that she was not retiring from politics.
You are right, Swapan. I am not retiring from politics. It is just that I am not contesting the next Lok Sabha election due to my health issues. https://t.co/jF5GpPvVwU
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) November 20, 2018
BJP sources said the party may bring her back into parliament through the Rajya Sabha. Ms Swaraj, who was also minister in the previous Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government in the 1990s, is known for her oratorical skills and gift of repartee.
Sources in her family confirmed that Ms Swaraj needed to avoid infection and was taking health precautions. “She has contested 11 elections, there is no political reason behind the decision,” said a source.
The veteran leader, the second woman to be foreign minister after Indira Gandhi, was forced to take a break from work for months in 2016 because of a diabetes condition. She had a kidney transplant.
In November 2016, the Twitter-savvy minister posted the news herself. “I am in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Presently, I am on dialysis. I am undergoing tests for a Kidney transplant. Lord Krishna will bless,” she said before her surgery.
Today, Ms Swaraj’s husband Swaraj Kaushal also reacted to her announcement on Twitter. “Madam, Thank you very much for your decision not to contest any more elections. I remember there came a time when even Milkha Singh stopped running,” tweeted Mr Kaushal, a former governor of Mizoram.