Sushma Swaraj, Sumitra Mahajan apply for ex-MP cards, signal end of legislative innings

Two veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) woman stalwarts, former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and former Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, signalled the end of their legislative careers on Tuesday when the former applied for and the latter secured ex-member of Parliament identity cards, effectively ruling out the chances of them winning party nominations to the Rajya Sabha.

Swaraj, 67, and Mahajan, 76, represented Vidisha and Indore, both in Madya Pradesh, respectively, in the 16th Lok Sabha.

Swaraj announced last year that she wouldn’t contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, citing health grounds, although she said she wasn’t retiring from politics. Mahajan, an eight-term parliamentarian, in April wrote an open letter questioning the BJP’s hesitation in announcing its Indore candidate and declared that she would not contest the Lok Sabha polls. Tuesday’s move indicates that there will be no space in the upper house for the two veterans.

Mahajan was the first one to approach the Parliamentary Notice Office (PNO) on Monday. Her application was approved on the day the government said Om Birla, the MP from Rajasthan’s Kota, was its pick for the post of speaker in the 17th Lok Sabha. Mahajan held farewell meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh and greeted the BJP’s newly appointed working president, JP Nadda.

She tweeted, “You gave me the opportunity to be Lok Sabha speaker. Thank you, Prime Minister Modi.’’

Her spokesperson Pankaj Kshirsagar confirmed to Hindustan Times that the ex-MP card was issued to her on Tuesday.

In contrast, Swaraj kept a low profile. There were no tweets, and her aides neither confirmed nor denied that her seven-term Parliamentary career was ending. The Lok Sabha secretariat confirmed to HT that her application had been received on Tuesday and would be processed soon.

“The member needs to surrender their existing card, and file an application along with three passport size photos,” said an official in the secretariat. Besides spending three decades in Parliament, Swaraj was also Delhi chief minister in 1998 for a short stint.

“Parliament will miss Sushmaji and her eloquence,’’said BJP’s Vani Tripathi Tickoo, “It’s rare that you’ve a woman leader who for decades held fort (forth) on every possible issue from a foreign policy matter to information and broadcasting to education, etcetera.’’