External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. (File picture)IANS

She was once seen as a future prime minister as she impressed not just her own party leaders, or the people of India who would often see her on their TV screens strongly pitching against the then UPA government whenever there was a need, but even by the Congress-led alliance for being articulate and keeping the point of view of the majority of India.

The BJP largely banked on its two leaders – Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley – as they efficiently played the roles of Leader of Opposition in both the Houses of parliament. There were occasions when Swaraj actually proved herself a stronger leader than the most of her party colleagues, including Jaitley.

But the surge of Narendra Modi literally wiped the BJP top order, and Swaraj was no exception. The then chief minister of Gujarat suddenly shrouded the mass appeals of veterans like Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Jaswant Singh and also Swaraj to a great extent.

Nevertheless, Swaraj did find a place in the NDA government's cabinet. Though the ministry of external affairs was not considered such an important portfolio when compared to the likes of ministry of home affairs and ministry of finance, the MEA did face some big challenges given the state of affairs involving India's bully neighbours and the friendly countries turning neutral.

However, it was not really the external affairs which kept Swaraj on her toes all the time, the bigger challenge was posed by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. From the day one, Modi kept on challenging Swaraj by taking diplomacy in his own hands as he invited all the heads of SAARC nations to attend the swearing-in ceremony of his council of ministers.

A year down the line, Swaraj is being admired as a minister more than any of her colleagues. Away from the media, she always preferred to work silently. Apart from addressing media on some rare occasions, like the hostage crisis in Iraq and Syria, she preferred to stay away from the limelight.

Swaraj hogged the limelight on Sunday as she addressed a mega press conference marking the completion of the NDA government's one year in office. As usual, Pakistan stole the show yet again as the minister ruled out cricket diplomacy with the country or talks with it until the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi who was released from a jail recently, were acted against.

The minister did not restrict her address to her ministry. In fact she started elaborating Modi government's key achievements in the first year in office. She then answered the queries of journalists, without any hesitation or gaffe, unlike her ministerial colleague Rajnath Singh who had recently committed a faux pas at his press conference in the national capital. Singh had said that India had entered into an agreement with France to make nuclear weapons as part of Modi's pet "Make in India" campaign.

Apparently, her political strategy makes Swaraj different from the rest in the cabinet as she never moaned about her portfolio or even more than obvious interference by none other than Modi. Modi, who is often credited with India's bold outlook towards the West or even criticised for staying away from India for too long rather than visiting the Indian poor, always shadowed Swaraj as the external affairs minister and she let that happen.

There is no real failure on the part of her ministry. It has been rather appreciated for its efforts, including the major rescue operation in Syria wherein citizens of many other countries were also taken out of the war-torn nation along with the thousands of stranded Indians.

Call it her political strategy or her diplomatic prowess, Sushma Swaraj has time and again proved why she is the most efficient minister in the Modi government.