Politics Set Aside, Delhi Bids Adieu to Sheila Dikshit as its Longest-Serving CM is Laid to Rest with State Honours
Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit was cremated at Delhi's Nigambodh Ghat with full state honours in the presence of several senior political leaders. Scores of citizens also turned up to pay homage to Dikhsit.
Supporters hold a portrait of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit while paying their last respects to her at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)
New Delhi: Politics was put aside. The sudden downpour ignored. All gathered for her last journey — those she worked alongside, those she fought and those she fought for.
As the hearse carrying the casket moved slowly from her house to the party headquarters towards the funeral, cries rang through the air, “Jab tak suraj chand rahega Sheilaji ka naam rahega”.
Former chief minister Sheila Dikshit passed away on Saturday after a cardiac arrest. In the next 24 hours, political rivalries were momentarily put aside as tributes and condolences poured in. From the upper echelons of the Congress to the BJP’s top leadership to state parties. Top Congress leaders, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, were present at the funeral.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and Home Minister Satyendar Jain were among those who attended the last rites.
Earlier, paying homage to Dikshit, Sonia said the three-time chief minister of Delhi was a friend and like an elder sister to her. Her demise was a big loss to the Congress party, she said.
BJP patriarch LK Advani and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj also visited Dikshit’s residence and paid tributes to her. A large number of party workers were gathered at the site despite torrential rains.
It is not accidental that Congress workers chose to compare the three-time CM’s legacy with the permanence of the Sun and the Moon. Harish Singh (56), a Congress worker who claimed he had worked with her in the 2003 Delhi Assembly elections, said, “She was Delhi. She is Delhi. What you see in the capital, it was all done by her. It was her guidance. To cite a small example, look at the RWAs and the importance they have in basic governance. That was her doing.”
Her body was taken to the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) office before the funeral. It was here that Dikshit had galavanised the Congress, leading the party’s state unit, stitching together a powerful political force that would defeat the BJP in 1998.
Afterwards, her body was taken to the AICC headquarters at Akbar Road where top party leaders, including Manmohan Singh, chief ministers Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath, paid their respects, before heading to the Nigam Bodh ghat for cremation. The cremation was done using the CNG method that was installed at the ghat during her tenure as Delhi CM.
“She was here till the very last day. She was planning, motivating workers and looking ahead. She never stopped fighting. That is something that people, perhaps, don’t realise about her. She might have been soft-spoken, but she was a fighter,” said a DPCC post-bearer.
Kejriwal, who would hand Dikshit her first electoral loss in decades, was among the first to underscore the importance of the three-time CM’s contribution.
After announcing that the Delhi government would host a state funeral for her, he wrote, “Only last month I had met her for nearly an hour when she came with her party’s delegation to submit a memorandum on several issues. At the end of the meeting, I wished her good health, not knowing that this would be my last meeting with her.”
Sonia Gandhi, in her letter to Dikshit’s son Sandeep, talked about the vacuum that was created by her death. She wrote, “She worked with such vision and dedication to transform Delhi, to make it a much better place to live in for all its citizens, including the poorest, and that tremendous achievement remains her lasting legacy.”
Friends and admirers fondly recalled their interactions with Dikshit during her 15 years stint as the chief minister of the national capital.
Her friend Anastasia Gill, former Delhi Minority Commission member, said, she will remember the Congress leader for her strong character and determination. “Sheila treated everyone equally and it was her determination that she could fight back the allegations of corruption during her third term as chief minister,” Gill said.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited her residence and was accompanied by Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari.
Dikshit, party leaders said, had been working for the Delhi Assembly polls scheduled for early next year. The immediate challenge for the Congress will be find someone else in her stead, but as one AICC leader put it, “Who has her credentials or her drive?”
As the longest serving woman chief minister who steered her party to victory for three consecutive terms in 1998, 2003 and 2008, Dikshit ushered in an era of all-round development that transformed Delhi into a world-class capital.
She also initiated green reforms in public transport sector successfully accomplishing the shift from polluting vehicles to a CNG-based fleet.
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