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Maken's Visit to Sheila Dikshit's Residence Heralds Rapprochement in Delhi Congress

Delhi for Rahul Gandhi is important. There are 20 seats which are waiting to be vacated following a poll panel ruling. If the bypolls are held on these seats, which are all now with the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress has a fair chance to win four to five seats if not more. This is something which the BJP more than the AAP would not want to happen.

Sidharth Mishra |

Updated:February 17, 2018, 1:15 PM IST
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Maken's Visit to Sheila Dikshit's Residence Heralds Rapprochement in Delhi Congress
File Image of senior Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken. (PTI Photo)
On the completion of three years in office of the Arvind Kejriwal Government, the Delhi Congress has invited media persons for the customary interaction to list the ‘failures’ of party in power. What makes the media conference more than customary is the invite which says that Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken would be sharing dais with his onetime mentor former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

The invite adds that the duo would be joined by former Delhi unit presidents, members of parliament and former ministers of the city government. If the event happens the way it has been planned, Delhi Congress cannot give a better gift on Valentine’s Day to its newly appointed party president Rahul Gandhi.

Delhi for Rahul Gandhi is important. There are 20 seats which are waiting to be vacated following a poll panel ruling. If the bypolls are held on these seats, which are all now with the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress has a fair chance to win four to five seats if not more. This is something which the BJP more than the AAP would not want to happen.

The national capital is nerve centre of Indian politics. Though it may be sending just seven members to the Lok Sabha but the political results in the city help create perception nationally. In fact old-timers would say that Delhi was the barometer of the national politics, reflecting the voters’ mood across the states.

A not up to the mark performance in the bypolls is something which BJP president Amit Shah would least want, lest it affect their chances in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which go to polls over a year’s time and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

What makes Shah doubtful in Delhi is the state of local BJP organization, which is in shambles with its president Manoj Tiwari even refusing to attend the office on Pant Marg, which is otherwise populated with office-bearers belonging to the faction led by Union Minister Vijay Goel, who incidentally is in the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan.

The party recently completely failed to address the issue of sealing of unauthorized business premises being carried out on the directions of the Supreme Court. The monitoring committee appointed by the court has decided to expand its scope now to illegal constructions in the residential areas. The brunt of the political fallout of the SC-propelled sealing drive would be faced by the BJP and the AAP.

This is something which is being realized within the Congress rank and file too. The faction leaders probably see in this ‘tragedy’, caused by the sealing drive, an opportunity to revive their contact with people. “If the Congress doesn’t stand with the people now, when will it,” is the general refrain now in the Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, the Delhi Congress office; therefore the move to bring the warring factions together on one platform.

Maken had started to make ground for this moment of rapprochement soon after Congress failed to gain power in the MCD polls last year, coming third behind BJP and AAP. He did not counter the acerbic criticism of his leadership by the former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and waited for the leadership to reiterate their faith in his abilities.

Having got a fresh lease in the office from party leadership, Maken had been working towards building bridges with rivals starting with fellow-Punjabi and a former Delhi Congress president Subhash Chopra. Thereafter reaching out to known Sheila-acolytes like Kiran Walia and finally tweeting, “Delhi now remembers her for a sane development-oriented Governance. Sheila ji had a great role in mentoring me as her Cabinet Minister. We will all work together to regain the glory of Delhi!”

Dikshit could not have asked for more, and the visit by Maken to her residence at Nizamuddin (East) to invite her for the Valentine Day conference was part of the reconciliation plan. In fact Dikshit’s Nizamuddin residence was also the venue when script for reviving Congress fortunes was written two decades back in 1998.

Maken, then a young MLA was at the forefront of the Dikshit bandwagon, pushing ahead to break the party free from the stranglehold of the old-timers like HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Chowdhary Prem Singh. The history has now taken a full circle, with Maken as Delhi Congress president visiting his onetime mentor seeking her support to revive the party, which today is no less an onerous job than what it was in 1998, when Dikshit was appointed president of Delhi Congress.

When Maken broke ranks with Dikshit soon after 2004 Lok Sabha polls, it was said that he did so because she promoted her son Sandeep Dikshit over other young leaders. Sandeep, a two-term Lok Sabha MP, is still there but his detractors raise questions about his ability to inherit his mother’s legacy.

Will Dikshit bless her estranged protégé is something to be watched. The rapprochement between the two factions can only come if Maken and Sandeep decide to break bread together. If that happens, its good news for Delhi Congress.

(The writer is a senior journalist and political commentator)

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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