New Delhi: And just like that, the year 2019 is nearing its end. This was a year which witnessed a devastating terror attack, a party returning to power with a thumping majority and several other political developments which became talking points of the year.
However, this was also a year which witnessed deaths of several political bigwigs. The ruling BJP, which lost party patriarch and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee last year, lost three more senior leaders in 2019, all of whom had been a part of the all-important Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) at some point during the first term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
1. Arun Jaitley (28/12/1952-24/08/2019): ‘Troubleshooter’ is how leaders across the political spectrum described Arun Jaitley after his death in August. Described by Prime Minister Modi as his ‘dost’ (friend), Jaitley was PM’s ‘guide’ during his early days in Lutyens Delhi. So valued was the former Finance Minister that the Prime Minister drove to his residence to convince him to be a part of the Modi 2.0 cabinet, after Jaitley wrote to Modi, requesting him not to include him in the government, due to continued poor health.
A diabetic, Jaitley was hospitalised at AIIMS on August 9 after complaining of ‘breathlessness’ and passed away 15 days later.
2. Sushma Swaraj (14/02/1952-06/08/2019): Before Jaitley, it was his party as well as ministerial colleague, Sushma Swaraj, who breathed her last on August 6. Succeeded by former diplomat S Jaishankar as the External Affairs Minister, Swaraj, who announced last year that she won’t contest the 2019 Lok Sabha Election, passed away mere hours after congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter for the government’s decision to revoke special status of Jammu and Kashmir, announced a day earlier.
Famous for having brought a ‘humane’ touch to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), her death left an entire nation in shock, as well as in immense grief.
3. Manohar Parrikar (13/12/1955-17/03/2019): The first Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumnus to become Chief Minister (the second being Arvind Kejriwal), Manohar Parrikar died due to pancreatic cancer while being the sitting Chief Minister of Goa, in what was his fourth term in office. An IIT-Bombay alumnus, Parrikar was the Union Defence Minister when he returned to Goa as its Chief Minister in March 2017.
It was during his term as the Defence Minister that the Indian Army carried out surgical strikes in Myanmar and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). He was also a strong backer of the controversial Rafale deal between India and France.
4. Sheila Dikshit (31/03/1938-20/07/2019): A three-term Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit was also the longest-serving Chief Minister of any state or union territory (UT). She was also the second former Delhi Chief Minister to have passed away this year, Sushma Swaraj being the other (another former Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana passed away last October).
At the time of her death, she was the president of the Delhi Congress. Also a former Governor of Kerala, Sheila Dikshit was the Chief Minister of Delhi for a combined duration of 15 years.
5. George Fernandes (03/06/1930-29/01/2019): Known for that viral image-raising hands in defiance while still in shackles, during emergency-George Fernandes was the Union Defence Minister at the time of Kargil War in 1999. It is reported that he visited the Siachen glacier-the world’s highest battlefield-a record 32 times. It was during his time as the Defence Minister that allocation in the budget for the defence sector was more than that allocated by any previous government.
In a survey in 2000, he was rated as the best Defence Minister until then. Fernandes quit as Defence Minister due to ‘coffingate’ scandal but was later acquitted of all charges by two commissions of enquiry.
6. Ram Jethmalani (14/09/1923-08/09/2019): A legal doyen, Ram Jethmalani was India’s Law Minister in the first Atal Bihari Vajpayee government between May 1996-June 1996. Arguably the most noted face in the Indian legal fraternity, he was known for his forte in criminal law and high-profile civil cases.
He obtained his LLB degree at just 17-years old. An author of several books, he was leading a post-retirement life, having announced his retirement from the profession in 2017.
7. S Jaipal Reddy (16/01/1942-28/07/2019): A Congress heavyweight from the present-day Telangana, Sudini Jaipal Reddy was a five-term Lok Sabha MP. The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister in 1998 in the government of then-Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, he also held other portfolios like Science and Technology, Earth Sciences etc. at different times.
An alumnus of Hyderabad’s prestigious Osmania University, he won the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award in 1998, becoming the youngest-ever MP and the first from South India to win the honour.
8. Jagannath Mishra (24/06/1937-19/08/2019): A former three-term Chief Minister of Bihar, Jagannath Mishra was the Congress’ most powerful leader in the state in the late seventies and eighties. He was also a member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and later, the Janata Dal (United). He is perhaps most famous for making Urdu the second official language of Bihar, a decision taken during the first cabinet meeting of his second term.
He wrote many research papers and authored, as well as edited, several books. A three-day state mourning was declared in Bihar after his death.
9. TN Seshan (15/12/1932-10/11/2019): Election Commissioner with a ‘spine.’ TN Seshan was not a politician but played a major role in the country’s politics. The Election Commission of today, it is alleged, has become just a ‘tool’ in the hands of the Modi government, but with Seshan as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), it brought about sweeping changes in the country’s electoral system.
Said to be ‘feared’ by several politicians back in the day, Seshan made sure that elections were fair and square and also ensured strict implementation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). The 10th CEC of India, he also served as the 18th Cabinet Secretary.