Sheila Dikshit's death a setback for Congress comeback plan in Delhi
By Nivedita Singh
New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The death of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will affect the Congress' dream of bouncing back in the upcoming Assembly polls in the city as she leaves a vacuum due to lack of any leader of her stature.
Dikshit, 81, who served as Delhi Chief Minister for three consecutive terms from 1998 and 2013, was re-appointed as the party chief in January, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, to strengthen the party in the city.
She had first become the Congress' Delhi chief in 1998 and led the party to the power that year. She repeated the victory in the next two polls to serve as Chief Minister for 15 years. With Assembly polls slated for next year, the party was expecting that her appointment could lead to a similar result. However, her sudden demise will make the party's dream all the more difficult.
Dikshit's leadership spelled hope for Congress's revival in the city, as under her leadership, the party's vote share in this Lok Sabha polls had increased.
After ruling in the city for 15 years, the Congress had secured a vote share of 24.55 per cent in the 2013 Assembly polls, which dropped to just 9.65 per cent in the 2015 Assembly polls.
In the recently-held Lok Sabha polls, the Congress's vote share went up to 22.46 per cent from that of 15.10 per cent in 2014.
But with her absence, the increasing factionalism in the state unit and no Central leadership, the party's task is becoming all the more tough.
A number of internal factions have formed within the state unit, including those led by Ajay Maken, J.P. Agarwal, Haroon Yusuf and Rajesh Lilothia among others.
Maken has proved himself as a flop show and also has had health issues, while other leaders do not have mass appeal like Dikshit.
Apart from Maken, Arvinder Singh Lovely could also have been a potential leader but his betrayal by shifting to the BJP for a short period will not be accepted by the leaders.
On the other hand, the conflict between Dikshit and party's Delhi in-charge P.C. Chacko was no secret.
Their differences came out into the public domain with Chacko writing letters to Dikshit questioning her working style. In the last few days, he had written to her a number of times to register his dissatisfaction with some of her decisions.
He had also expressed displeasure that his earlier directions were not implemented and some "so-called spokespersons" of the party were issuing "irresponsible" statements and questioning his decisions.
The state Congress was also divided on the issue of an alliance with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in the Lok Sabha polls - while Maken and Chacko were supporting the tie-up, Dikshit strongly resisted it.
Despite then Congress chief Rahul Gandhi openly speaking of an alliance with AAP in Delhi, Dikshit always maintained her firm stand against it.
Despite her age and health issues, she was always open to people, rival politicians as well as journalists.
Her mass appeal and three terms as the Chief Minister - in which the city saw immense changes - could have helped the Congress in its return in Delhi, in a time when the party is only being rejected in almost every state.
(Nivedita Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)