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Sheila Dikshit, Key Weapon in Congress Arsenal, Was Reason Behind Party's Resurgence in Delhi

Her political career from Delhi started in earnest in 1998, when she defeated the BJP’s Lal Bihari Tiwari from east Delhi in the Lok Sabha election and became the CM the next year.


Updated:July 20, 2019, 8:49 PM IST
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Sheila Dikshit, Key Weapon in Congress Arsenal, Was Reason Behind Party's Resurgence in Delhi
File photo of late Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit. (PTI)

New Delhi: Sheila Dikshit, the three-time chief minister had galvanised the Congress party in Delhi, ruling uncontested from 1998-2013. Her tenure saw a period of dominance in the capital by the grand old party, until her loss to current chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal in 2013.

Dikshit served as a parliamentarian from the Kannauj constituency from 1984-1989 and also served as a Union minister from 1986-1989. Her political career from Delhi started in earnest in 1998, when she defeated the BJP’s Lal Bihari Tiwari from East Delhi in the Lok Sabha elections and became the chief minister the next year.

She represented the Gole Market Assembly from 1998-2003 and the New Delhi parliamentary constituency seat in 2008. “In each of these elections, she always started her campaign with a walk through her old Gole Market seats, where she would meet with her voters. Her connect with the people of Delhi was unparalleled,” said a Congress leader.

During the Congress’ tenure in Delhi, Dikshit brought in several key projects and is widely credited with converting the city. Her governance, an official in the Delhi government said, was responsible for ushering in key reforms. “She brought in reforms to the power sector, a series of social security schemes and also greatly enhanced the city’s infrastructure during her tenure,” said a former principal secretary in Dikshit’s cabinet.

After losing in Delhi in 2013, Dikshit remained a key, albeit inconsistently utilised member of the Congress’ arsenal. She was sworn in as governor of Kerala in March 2014, but resigned in less than a month. She was declared the chief ministerial candidate for the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017, but would later withdraw.

Despite being an octogenarian, Dikshit led the party in the Lok Sabha polls and herself contested against Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari from the North East Delhi seat. She lost by over 3.66 lakh votes. She was appointed as the President of the Delhi Congress’ state unit in January 2019 after the incumbent Ajay Maken stepped down citing health issues.

“During this entire time, Dikhit remained a valuable part of the Congress and its association with Delhi. She was the reason as to why the Congress had such strong roots in the capital,” said a former Congress state minister.

The Congress had lost all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi to the BJP with huge margins. However, under Dikshit's leadership the party managed to push Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates to the third place in five of the seven seats, besides registering a growth in its vote share.

After the Congress' defeat in Delhi, Dikshit had offered her resignation to the party president but it was not accepted.

"We regret to hear of the passing of Smt Sheila Dikshit," the Congress said in a tweet. "Lifelong congresswoman and as three time CM of Delhi she transformed the face of Delhi. Our condolences to her family and friends. Hope they find strength in this time of grief."

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