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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: It's not as an adapted Kannadiga Sushma had endeared the state of Karnataka during here epic fight with the then Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Bellary, BJP's this fiery orator had been ranked as the most popular leader after Atal-Advani in Odisha, much before the advent of Modi era.

Her topping the popularity charts in Odisha is evident from this very fact that the BJP's campaign here against the Naveen-led BJD was kicked off by this petite but giant leader Sushma Swaraj at a mega rally in the State. This was when the BJD-BJP had parted ways post 2009. She was BJP's biggest crowd puller in Odisha in 2009 elections, even a notch higher than her mentor and BJP patriarch L K Advani.

Her unique characteristic is, like Atal ji, she had few enemies in the country's political circles. Even in case of Odisha CM, Sushma used to fondly address him as Naveen Bhai.

When the BJP - BJD alliance existed, both parties loved to pitch Sushma Swaraj to address poll bound constituencies. Such was the magnetic personality of Sushma Swaraj in Odisha.

Though Sushma had held a range of portfolios in her illustrated career, her tenure as Union Health Minister will be etched in the memory of people of Odisha. Because, it is during her tenure the AIIMS at Bhubaneswar and at five other places were conceptualised. And the foundation stone was laid by the then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee in the presence of Sushma Swaraj. She as health minister then had promised to revamp the moribund health infra and services in Odisha, which is yet to be completely achieved till date.

However, though the affable BJP leader donned the mantle of EAM (External Affairs Minister) in the Modi1.0, her contribution towards the cause of people in Odisha in no way stood limited.

She again lived upto her dynamic nature. It's under her regime that nearly half a dozen post offices in Odisha started functioning as Passport Seva Kendras. Passport Seva Kendras have come up in places like Bhawanipatna, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Balasore. Significantly,  such centres in Odisha bear the maximum load of migrant workers in the State. Earlier, these workers had to rely on Bhubaneswar Passport Office. And reports then suggested how touts made a rich haul in arranging visas for these gullible migrant workers.

Under her dynamism as the country's EAM accessible, she became a voice for the voiceless migrant  workers in the country. Her words  "Even if you are stuck in Mars, Indian Embassy there will help you" sums up quite majestically about her dedication and vigour. A simple distress tweet tagging her twitter handle was enough to draw the attention of all concerned even in distant land.

Rescue of scores of Odia workers struck in middle east countries endeared her more to the poor families in Odisha, who had lost all hopes of  returning to homeland.

Odisha will always remember you Sushmaji!

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