Three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who was pushed out of city politics following her party’s humiliating defeat over four years ago, took over as Delhi Congress chief on Wednesday. In her first comments before taking charge, the 80-year-old politician said the party will strategise to meet the challenges ahead.
Her predecessor Ajay Maken’s exit had sparked buzz that the party could be open to a alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party, which had unseated the Congress in 2015 after three consecutive terms in power.
In recent weeks, Sheila Dikshit has not articulated any strong stance on the alliance with Aam Aadmi Party but there have been suggestions that she is unlikely to too enthusiastic about teaming up with AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal who had run a stinging campaign against her, accusing her of corruption in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
But just before she formally took charge, Sheila Dikshit spoke of the BJP and AAP in the same breath.
“BJP and AAP both are a challenge; we will meet the challenges together,” she said, according to news agency ANI.
“There is nothing on alliance with AAP yet,” she added.
Dikshit’s stand is a sharp contrast to her predecessor Ajay Maken’s vociferous, and very public opposition to the idea of tying up with AAP.
When rumours about a possible alliance with the Congress first emerged from the AAP camp last year, Maken had gone on overdrive to tell the party leadership that this was a very bad idea. This is why his exit, timed around the same time AAP’s HS Phoolka who was opposed to an alliance with Congress, had breathed life into rumours of an alliance.
Sheila Dikshit has maintained that it is for the party leadership to decide on alliances. But there have been clear hints to indicate where she stands.
“We are all hurt… at the way they spoke about Rajiv Gandhi,” she said, a reference to the controversy around an assembly resolution on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots when some leaders had attacked former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
It was Rajiv Gandhi back in 1980s who inducted Sheila Dikshit into the government when he gave the alumni from Delhi’s Miranda House her first ministerial assignment. She had cut her political teeth helping out veteran Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Uma Shankar Dikshit, her father-in-law.
She started off as a reluctant politician, and cut her political teeth assisting her father-in-law, a veteran Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Uma Shankar Dikshit, who was a minster in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet.
Many years later when the BJP was trying to make a comeback to the Delhi government and Congress leaders were too busy pulling each other down, the party deployed the ‘outsider’ Sheila Dikshit.
It was her first stint as Delhi Congress chief. She didn’t hold the post for very long then. She led the party to victory and became chief minister. The winning streak continued for 15 years till Aam Aadmi Party was born out of an anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare.