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Sheila Dikshit dobara: Why Congress chose the former CM as its Delhi chief

The party feels that if it fails to form an alliance with AAP, the BJP stands a chance to repeat its 2014 success, netting all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.

 |  4-minute read |   10-01-2019
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Former chief minister Sheila Dikshit dobara? Or will it be young Sharmistha Mukherjee, Delhi Mahila Congress chief and daughter of former President Pranab Mukherjee — who would replace Ajay Maken as the head of Delhi Congress?

A movie buff, Sheila Dikshit is the evergreen Dev Anand of Indian politics.

In 1998, when she had lost four consecutive Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, Sonia Gandhi handpicked her to head the Delhi unit of the party.

sheila-690_010919064856.jpgSheila Dikshit is 'the Dev Anand of Delhi politics'. (Source: India Today)

A triumphant Dikshit went on to win three consecutive Assembly polls, almost changing the face of Delhi with massive infrastructural development, civic sense and a cleaner environment.

However, her political stature and success almost destroyed the party organisation in Delhi and resulted in her suffering the most humiliating defeat in the national capital in 2013.

Three years later, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi designated her as the chief ministerial face for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections.

Dikshit, who was then 78, had the task of reaching out to crores of voters spread over 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh — but before she could take off, the party forged an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP).

The party went on to be reduced to a single digit (seven) in the 403-member Assembly.

The question that thus needs to be asked is whether another experiment with the octogenarian leader is worth a try?

Makan resigned as DPCC chief recently on health grounds. But the buzz at 24, Akbar Road, that houses the Congress national headquarters, is that his resignation has more to do with the grand old party trying to reach a seat-sharing arrangement with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi and his desire to get in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretariat.

The post of AICC general secretary in-charge of the party organisation has fallen vacant. Makan is the fourth contender for the coveted post in addition to Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia.   

Meanwhile, the Congress has adopted a blow-hot, blow-cold attitude towards the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP.

On the face of it, the Congress is up in arms against chief minister Kejriwal for suggesting that the Bharat Ratna, conferred to the late Rajiv Gandhi, should be withdrawn in view of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. However, the party is also aware that if it fails to form an alliance with AAP, the BJP stands the chance to repeat its 2014 success — netting all seven Lok Sabha seats.

Congress leaders such as Sheila Dikshit, Kapil Sibal, Sharmistha Mukherjee, Arvinder Singh Lovely and many others are reportedly in favour of a Lok Sabha seat-sharing agreement with the AAP. Even Kejriwal and AAP are apparently not averse to the idea.

sar-690_010919065255.jpgGiven her good rapport with Arvind Kejriwal, Sharmistha Mukherjee stands a good chance of becoming Delhi unit chief. (Source: PTI)

The Congress and AAP are confident of wresting all seven seats from the BJP if they come together. Sources say, the Congress wants a 4:3 formula in its favour, while the AAP wants five seats for itself, leaving only two for the Congress.

Given how important it is for the Congress to form this alliance, both Sharmistha Mukherjee and Arvinder Singh enjoy an edge over the veteran Sheila Dikshit.

Mukherjee may lack experience in the party organisation, but she reportedly has a good rapport with Kejriwal. Lovely, on the other hand, is considered close to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.      

A section of the Congress’ central leadership feels the party is dying in the national capital. Leaders such as Sibal, Dikshit, Jai Parkash Aggarwal and even younger faces such as Mukherjee and Lovely exude little hope.

sarrr-690_010919065917.jpgThe Congress leadership in Delhi has lost its once-bright sheen. (Source: Twitter)

Gone are the days when Chaudhary Brahm Prakash, Mir Mushtaq, Subhadra Joshi, Amar Nath Chawla, Radha Raman and HKL Bhagat used to be uncrowned masters of Delhi politics. 

In light of this gloom, the Congress is also toying with the idea of fielding some new faces in the upcoming elections. Guru Satpal Singh is one such candidate likely to be fielded from West Delhi. The Dronacharya of many wrestlers, he is the mentor and father-in-law of Olympian Sushil Kumar.

Satpal used to be a friend of late Sanjay Gandhi. He continues to have cordial relations with the Gandhi family.

Also read: How Priyanka Gandhi persuaded Sheila Dikshit to be Congress' UP face

Writer

Rasheed Kidwai Rasheed Kidwai @rasheedkidwai

Journalist-author Rasheed Kidwai is a visiting fellow of ORF]

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