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Sunday, September 19th, 2021

Debating with Sushma Swaraj

sushma swarajColonel RD Singh( retd) }  Now that it is the election time in Haryana, and my vocal cords are at full throttle, I get  reminded of my debating days with Sushma Swaraj, while in college at Chandigarh, in 1971 - 73.  Today,  as a fellow debater, I feel proud to see Sushma Swaraj  as Foreign minister of the country,  and may be a PM one day.  I have very fond memories  of this no nonsense and versatile lady. I do not expect her to remember me.  If she does, then three cheers to good debating.  Here it goes.

I am in the second year of BA (Hons–Eng) in DAV College, Chandigarh, in 1972.  Sushma Sharma (She married Swaraj Kaushal later), is in second year of law, at the Punjab University.  I represent my College in debating and Sushma represents the law Deptt.I am an English  Speaker, and she normally speaks in Hindi, though is good at English too.

After few contests, we of the debaters club, had come to know one another quite well, as we were a handful at the University level.Amongst girls, the leaders were Sushma, and Jyotsana Pandit from GCW. The male speaker stalwarts included Ish Kapoor, Rattandeep Singh, M LVerma  (later IAS and PS to Bhajan Lal), Lalit Kapoor, Pranav Singhal, and some  mortals like me.  From St Stephens Delhi, the familiar team was of Vivek Katzu (IFS) and  stocky Chowdhary.

So, we the Punjab University debaters, were quite well knit when it came to contesting  against St Stephens, Hindu or Kirorimal.Sushma Sharma was our leader.  When it come to wining the inter college shield, it was mostly either Sushma Sharma or Ish Kapoor.During inter university contests, St Stephens led by Vivek Katzu generally scored over us with his style and aura of being a St Stephenian.  But when it came to press coverage, Sushma hogged the lime light, with the caption “Sushma wins again”.  She made news even at that time. Sushma carried herself very well.  No nonsense attitude. She was good at studies also and  married  her class mate Swaraj Kaushal, in later years.  She had no tales and commanded huge respect on the campus.

There were  two memorable occasions during my debating of two years at the University level, when I experienced the greatest satisfaction.  First was during a Youth Festival at DAV College Chandigarh in Nov 1972.  I beat Sushma to first prize and got recommended.  She was commended.  I remember, while we were having tea in the College cafeteria after the competition, my neck tie accidentally dipped into tea.  Sushma had a hearty laugh.  We all joined her as it was on occasion to celebrate.

My second great satisfaction was when we (DAV team – Pranav Singhal and self) defeated St Stephens at Vaish College, Bhiwani, in April 1973.  I always used to lose a pt in diction due  to my Haryanvi mother tongue.  In this competition, I convinced the judges that mother tongue is my birth right and I was proud of it. Having an impact of mother tongue on one’s accent is natural.  What is important is content, style, and strength of convictions.  I won.  It was a great moment for Prof CL Dhamija also, our team in-charge, who always supported me. Late Mr Triloki Nath, our Principal, specially complimented us for humbling the snobbish St Stephen’s team.

    Sushma Sharma and self parted ways in late 1973 when I went to join Army and she started her law practice.  I kept a tag of her as she won MLA’s election from Ambala and thereafter became the youngest minister in  Devi Lal’s govt at the age of 25 !  She rose to become a minister in the Vajpayee govt and she also became spokesperson of BJP and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha . At present she is the Minister OF External Affairs in narendra modi government . 
As  she has an onerous task  Wishing her, and all my debating colleagues, great service to the nation.
Col RD Singh ,Colonel RD Singh( retd)
96/Sector D Defence Colony Ambala Cantt (Haryana) – 133 001  Tele: 9467634686
*Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his  own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INVC.  ————————————  



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