Sushma Swaraj and Kaushal: Power Couple at Centre of Controversy

By Ranjana Narayan: As controversy continues to billow over External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for helping former IPL chief Lalit Modi procure travel documents to Portugal, media interest has latched on to the senior minister’s family – her husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri.

The two have also been named in emails exchanged between Modi and Indian-origin British member of Parliament Keith Vaz. The names of the husband and daughter of Sushma Swaraj have been doing the rounds after Britain’s Sunday Times reported an email exchange between influential Labour MP Vaz and head of UK Visas and Immigration Sarah Rapson, citing Sushma Swaraj.

The Indian foreign minister helped facilitate travel documents for Lalit Modi, a former head of the Indian Premier League (IPL), who has been charged with alleged financial impropriety and is staying in London since 2010.

According to Sushma Swaraj’s bio on the ministry of external affairs website, Swaraj Kaushal is a senior advocate of Supreme Court of India and a criminal lawyer who served as Governor of Mizoram from 1990 to 1993. Swaraj Kaushal was a Member of Parliament from 1998 to 2004. They have a daughter, Bansuri, who is a graduate from Oxford University and a Barrister at Law from Inner Temple

Kaushal, known to be an expert in northeast affairs, was also the first government interlocutor in the Naga peace process. He was appointed by the A.B. Vajpayee government to talk to the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (I-M) leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Th Muivah. However, the government replaced him with former union home secretary K. Padmanabhaiah over differences on the modalities of the ceasefire with the Nagas. After his removal, he wrote in a daily, “Don’t trust this prime minister (Atal Bihari Vajpayee).” Kaushal later made amends and was all praise for the Vajpayee government’s efforts to settle the Naga issue.

According to reports, Kaushal, 63, has been Lalit Modi’s lawyer for more than two decades. Both Sushma and her husband defended the then opposition leader George Fernandes in the Baroda Dynamite Case, the term used for the criminal case launched by the Indira Gandhi government in India during the Emergency (1975-77) against Fernandes and 24 others. The CBI had framed false charges against Fernandes and others of smuggling dynamite to blow up government establishments and railway tracks in protest against the Emergency.

Kaushal, also has to his credit the release of then underground Mizo leader Laldenga in the conspiracy trial in 1979. He was constitutional advisor to the Mizo National Front, led by Laldenga, for a number of years and played an important role in the talks between the government and the MNF leadership. The talks led to the signing of the Mizoram accord in 1986.

He was appointed the first Advocate General of Mizoram. He holds the distinction of being the youngest person to become a governor in India, when he was made Mizoram governor in 1990 at the age of 37.

Sushma Swaraj, born in 1952, a former ABVP activist and daughter of an RSS worker, was the youngest ever cabinet minister (at 25 in Devi Lal’s cabinet) in 1977-79. She married Socialist Party worker Swaraj Kaushal in July 1975 and worked with Jai Prakash Narayan. In 1977, she won the Assembly polls from her home constituency Ambala Cantt on a Socialist Party ticket and joined Devi Lal’s cabinet with seven portfolios. In 1984, she joined the BJP.

In 1996 she was first elected to the Lok Sabha from South Delhi. In 1998, she was re-elected to the Lok Sabha and held the portfolios of information and broadcasting and telecom ministers. She replaced Sahib Singh Verma as Delhi chief minister in October 1998, on the party’s call, 40 days ahead of the Assembly elections.

In the 1999 Lok Sabha polls she fought against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Bellary, considered a stronghold of the Congress. She lost by 50,000 votes. She is also famous for having threatened in 2004 to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi ever became prime minister. But she later buried the hatchet with Sonia Gandhi and shared a cordial relationship. In 2007, she won the Best Parliamentarian Award and was made the first spokeswoman of the BJP. In 2009, she won the Lok Sabha polls from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh. She was elected Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. She got her education at S.D.College, Ambala Cantt (Haryana) and Department of Law, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

Sushma is known for her oratorical skills.

The senior most minister in the Narendra Modi camp and known to be the most efficient, Sushma Swaraj is known to be part of the L.K. Advani party camp. As external affairs minister, Sushma has kept a low profile but has been extremely busy in her diplomatic engagements. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hogged all the limelight with his many foreign tours, overshadowing his minister. But Sushma Swaraj has said she finds a proactive prime minister to be a support. Their daughter, Bansuri, is a graduate from Oxford University and a Barrister at Law from Inner Temple. She is reported to have represented Lalit Modi for seven years. (IANS)

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