18 September 2019 02:16 AM

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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 20 JULY, 2019

Sheila Dikshit Found Dignity in Silence

RIP Sheila Dikshit


There are few politicians in today`s world with the grace and dignity of Sheila Dikshit. I got to know her well before and during her days as Chief Minister of Delhi and grew to admire her for not just the level of effort she put into her job, but also her ability to take the moment off to have a personal chat. Breakfast was her favourite time for a meet and a chat, with the table at her residence spelling privacy and comfort. Simple breakfasts that she personally got together for you ---or at least it always seemed like that--- provided the homely touch that made you confide in her even as she confided (well again that was the perception you came away with) in you.

Sheila Dikshit would drop by the house every now and again when invited for a party, for a quick hello. It was the same with all whom she befriended...although my association with her came under severe strain during her last term in office. When she seemed to have lost interest in the job, was visibly tired, and this was reflected in decisions she took or for that matter did not take. Criticism she did not like, and strains developed to the point where we lost touch.

She did have a troubled career. More so during her last years in office in Delhi with the Congress creating trouble for her, as she was independent in her decisions, and did not take kindly to interference. She would talk about those who managed a staged rebellion against her, and by the end of it she had had enough. More so as she was assured of a berth in the cabinet but then made to serve yet another term as the chief minister after the Congress won the elections. This made her bitter, and this showed in the lack of interest in Delhi and its affairs.

Dikshit went into voluntary retirement after the Congress lost the Delhi polls, deciding to stay away from active politics.Not just because she was tired, but because she was fed up of trying to stay afloat in the party where top leaders did not want to concede her space. However, she was dragged out when it came to the Uttar Pradesh elections as the proposed chief minister candidate. She was clearly not interested, but was not allowed the dignity of a No, and was taken out initially for election meetings with Rahul Gandhi. She was dropped summarily, as it became increasingly apparent that she was not the wild card that could have worked and was finally allowed to go back home by the party top brass.

Sheila Dikshit did not seem to get along with Sonia Gandhi, for reasons that she never really disclosed. But seemed to do with the then Congress Presidents silence about the party rebels who made life very difficult for the then Delhi Chief Minister. But in latter years she seemed to have a good equation with Rahul Gandhi. More so, when it came to rejecting an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party where after a long time in the Congress party, she was able to have her way. She was dead opposed to it, and despite pressure from others, she did have her way. Also when it seemed that the party had reopened the question again just before the Lok Sabha polls, it was again some furious lobbying by Dikshit that broke the deal. And the alliance ended there and then.

She was a good woman, and the cloud over her because of the Commonwealth Games did hurt her. She was an intensely private individual, and ensured her ‘me time’ despite hectic political schedules. She ran Delhi with thought and care, responsible for the metro along with several long term environment measures such as the introduction of CNG, the campaign against plastic---to name just a few. She took a personal interest in all that she undertook, ensuring levels of success that earned her support and respect. She has a huge following in the capital. Unfortunately less in the party that she spent her life in, and this was a hurt that stayed with her for a long time as she was relegated to Delhi for term after term after term, and not taken to the national level as a Union Minister.

Sad that she did not get that spot in the sun that for her was always the Congress party. Sad that she lost her last Lok Sabha elections this year , when by all logical parameters she should have won hands down.

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