How 'Magnanimous' Atal Bihari Vajpayee helped Sheila Dikshit Drive Delhi Into 21st Century
Sheila Dikshit appreciated the “magnanimous and large-hearted” prime minister Vajpayee and said she was proud of all they had managed to accomplish together.
File photo of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
New Delhi: In 1998, Sheila Dikshit unseated Sushma Swaraj to become the second woman to head Delhi. When she took over as Chief Minister, the government at the Centre was headed by the BJP. In contrast with the AAP, which claims that its work has been hindered by a “vindictive” central government, Dikshit told News18 that she enjoyed a cordial working relation with the Centre. “It (the relationship) was excellent. It was as great as my working relationship with any Prime Minister,” she said.
Dikshit appreciated the “magnanimous and large-hearted” prime minister Vajpayee and said she was proud of all they had managed to accomplish together. “We (Vajpayee and Dikshit) managed to get a lot of work done, including work on the Delhi Metro. He (Vajpayee) would never say it was ‘Sheila ka kaam’ (Sheila’s work). Instead, he used to say this is ‘Delhi ka kaam’ (Delhi’s work) and he would tell his bureaucrats to see to it that it was done.”
However, Dikshit did not always manage to make Vajpayee agree to everything she wanted. “I didn’t always get what I wanted. Sometimes, I went with 10 demands but got eight things. Sometimes I got only five. But the relationship was not one of conflict, like the current relationship between the CM and PM,” she said.
When asked if this meant there were no conflicts at all between her and Vajpayee, she said, “No, no. Not at all. He (Vajpayee) was magnanimous and large-hearted. The Centre also has an interest in ensuring that Delhi gets what it needs because they would not like a shabby capital. People come here from all over the world. The diplomatic corps also lives here.”
In fact, she said, the warmth in relations was not just limited to Vajpayee. Former deputy prime minister and home minister LK Advani, too, would help her get her work done, she said. She recalled an incident from 1998, just days after she stepped into office, when Advani asked her if she wanted to continue working with a BJP-appointed bureaucrat.
Dikshit said she chose a conciliatory approach because it was ultimately she, the CM, who would have to answer to the people. “Please remember, Delhi is not a full state. It has to go to the central government for practically anything. But for the people of Delhi, this (Chief Minister) is the face of the Delhi government. They don’t care that you have to keep going to the Centre. For them, you (the CM) are responsible.”
“I didn’t have any problems at all with the bureaucracy. Never. In fact, the first Chief Secretary I had in 1998 was appointed by the previous BJP government. I was asked by the then Home Minister LK Advani if I would like to change the Chief Secretary. I told them I was fine working with the same bureaucrat. That stood me in good stead. One expects a bureaucrat to not be political and they do what they are told to do,” Dixit told News18.
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