End of an era: 3-term Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit passes away
New Delhi, July 20 (UNI) Credited with a sea-change in the infrastructure of the Capital, three-term Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, passed after a protracted illness on Saturday.
The 81-year-old icon of the Indian National Congress, who had been keeping ill for a long time, was admitted to Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Okhla, New Delhi, in a critical condition with cardiac arrest. The end came at 1555 hrs after a second heart attack, according to party sources.
The mortal remains were kept at her residence at B 2 Nizamuddin east New Delhi and the last rites will take place on Sunday at 1430 hrs at Nigam Bodh Ghat.
Sheila Dikshit served as Chief Minister of Delhi from 1998 to 2013 for three consecutive terms.
As chief minister, she was credited with a change in the face of Delhi and introduction of initiatives including the seamless transition from diesel to Compressed Natural Gas in public transport.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the passing away of the veteran leader.
Congress party president Rahul Gandhi said he was devastated at the news. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sent their condolences.
"We regret to hear of the passing away of Smt Sheila Dikshit. Lifelong congresswoman and as three-time CM she transformed the face of Delhi. Our condolences to her family and friends. Hope they find strength in this time of grief," the Congress said in its message.
United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla joined the stream of mourners at her Nizamuddin residence.
Due to the sad demise, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Deputy Manish Sisodia cancelled their scheduled trip to Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu and Kashmir, according to AAP sources.
She had almost retired from politics. But in September-October 1998, the high command of the Congress then under Sonia Gandhi - decided to bank on her and she was fielded against a onion price hit-Bharatiya Janata Party and disorganised saffron camp.
BJP was ousted from power in Delhi and Congress romped home. After the verdict, Sheila Dikshit called it a mandate for 'Sonia Gandhi' as she had taken charge of Congress only in 1998 March.
Skyrocketing prices of onions had brought tears in the saffron camp. With Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the helm, BJP lost power in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
An humbled BJP did not have much to say. Sushma Swaraj, then a blue-eyed girl of Atal Bihari Vajpayee-Lal Krishna Advani team, admitted that internal dissension led to BJP's loss.
Ups and downs
On the other hand, Sheila Dikshit did not look back. Of course, she did not have it easy always.
Next year in 1999 Lok Sabha polls, BJP won all seven seats riding essentially a pro-Vajpayee and post-Kargil wave.
She subsequently faced dissensions led by then Congress leaders, including Subhash Chopra and a few other old timers, but Ms Dikshit managed the show well.
Her government brought in a sea change in Delhi's infrastructure starting from All India Institute of Medical Sciences circle flyover and she was given out to be the 'Congress version' of development Chief Minister.
Her biggest achievement politically in 15 years had been to expose weaknesses in BJP's so-called organisational strength and the 'party with a difference' in their onetime bastion-Delhi-became a party with differences and 'power brokers'.
If BJP is out of power in Delhi even now - circa 2019 - that is 21 years since 1998, the one person they can grudge is Sheila Dikshit.
"So much has been people of Delhi's faith in Sheila Dikshit that in 2018 - the voting took place a day after 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai; yet Delhiites preferred to continue to stick to Congress and BJP was humbled yet again," says an old timer in the BJP.
In 2008 November assembly polls, an over-confident BJP drafted in veteran Vijay Kumar Malhotra as the chief ministerial face.
By then Sheila Dikshit was also useful to Congress to be pitted against Narendra Modi's idea of development in the western state of Gujarat.
In 2012, she was the chief guest from Congress high command at the release of the party manifesto at Ahmedabad for the Gujarat assembly polls.
That election was billed as Modi's 'semi final' as immediately after that within nine months - in September 2013 - Modi was BJP's prime ministerial candidate and the rest is history.
By 2011-12, Sheila Dikshit was haunted by worst enemy of Indian politics - the corruption bug.
India Against Corruption had hijacked all headlines and the likes of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal took to streets.
With BJP also cornered in their bastion, came in a little known Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party.
The Congress pet phrase of 'aam aadmi' now became a tool against the party and Sheila Dikshit suffered an electoral defeat in New Delhi assembly constituency in December 2013 at the hands of Kejriwal.
The victory margin was huge--a difference of 24 per cent.
Irony is the way of politics.
Delhiites continued to remain indifferent to her - despite her works in the city - even when she contested the last elections of her life - against Manoj Tiwari in North East Delhi.
She was humbled by a margin of over three lakhs.
And no wonder, within an hour of her demise on Saturday-July 20-Vijay Malhotra told UNI: "Her death is a personal loss to me, Delhi and the entire nation. She was younger to me, and she would always acknowledge that. We spoke about ten days back and I told her contesting recent Lok Sabha elections at this age was uncalled. She smiled and had said you are a brother- I understand what you are saying, but my party took a decision and I had to respect that.''
Born on March 31,1938, in Kapurthala, Punjab, Sheila Dikshit led the Congress to three consecutive electoral victories in Delhi.
In the December 2013 elections to the Legislative Assembly, she was defeated in New Delhi constituency by Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal, who replaced her as Delhi's chief minister.
Between 1984 and 1989, she represented Kannauj parliamentary constituency of Uttar Pradesh. As an MP, she served on the Estimates Committee of Lok Sabha.
Sheila Dikshit also chaired the Implementation Committee for Commemoration of Forty Years of India's Independence and Jawaharlal Nehru centenary. She represented India at United Nations Commission on Status of Women for five years (1984–1989).
During 1986-1989, Sheila Dikshit also served as a Union Minister. Her first assignment was as the minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs and later as MoS in the Prime Minister's Office.
In August 1990, Sheila Dikshit and her 82 colleagues were jailed for 23 days by the Uttar Pradesh government when she led a movement against atrocities being committed on women.
On March 11, 2014, Sheila Dikshit was sworn in as Governor of Kerala . However, on August 25, 2014, she stepped down from her post. In the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly election, Sheila Dikshit was declared as chief ministerial candidate for the Congress. However, she later withdrew. On January 10, 2019, came her new responsibility as the president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee.
Educated at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in New Delhi, Sheila Dikshit graduated with a Master of Arts degree in history from Miranda House at the University of Delhi.
She was married to Vinod Dikshit, son of freedom fighter and former West Bengal governor Uma Shankar Dikshit.
She was the mother of two children, including a son, Sandeep Dikshit, (Member of Parliament of the 15th Lok Sabha from East Delhi) and a daughter, Latika Syed.
Last year, Sheila Dikshit underwent heart surgery at Lille, France.