New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that Sushma Swaraj as External Affairs Minister transformed her ministry from being bound to protocol to one oriented to “people’s call” and recalled she had urged him to deliver his first UN speech from a prepared text and not speak impromptu.
Joined by leaders from all major parties, Modi paid tributes to the BJP stalwart, who died last week, at a condolence meeting here.
The Prime Minister said he learnt a lot from her and spoke about his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, months after he had assumed the office for the first time.
After Sushma Swaraj received him, he suggested that they sit together as he had to deliver his speech the next day, Modi said.
Swaraj enquired where his speech was and he said he never writes his speeches as he finds it difficult.
“She said, ‘aisa nahi hota hai bhai’ (It does not work like this brother). ‘You have to speak about India to the world. You cannot speak as you wish’. I was the Prime Minister and she was my colleague Minister taking care of the External Affairs Ministry…” Modi said.
The Prime Minister said he had undertaken a long travel and was also on fast due to ‘Navratri’ but she insisted he share his thoughts.
The ministry prepared a draft speech for him, he said.
“It was her request… One may be a fine orator but there are some forums which have their own traditions. This was the first lesson Sushma ji had taught me,” he said, adding she had the courage to speak what she believed to be right.
Referring to Swaraj’s prompt response to Indians facing problems abroad or related to the ministry, he said she transformed the ministry.
It used to be bound to protocol but she transformed it and made it oriented to people’s call, he said.
BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and party’s working president J P Nadda, besides Anand Sharma of the Congress, Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress, Pinaki Misra of the BJD, LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan, Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant and opposition leader Sharad Yadav were among others who spoke at the condolence meeting.