While the world worries now about Delhi’s ability to pull off the Commonwealth Games in 2010, there is one person who is more anxious than anyone else, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
“I worry in the night sometimes,” Dikshit told HT in an exclusive interview at her home, “and get up with a start”.
Is there a doubt in her mind if Delhi will be ready in time for the Games? None whatsoever. Dikshit is confident the city will be ready, despite what everyone has to say.
She worries because she is personally spearheading the preparations. And you can actually tell how closely she is involved from the details she hands out so easily.
The turf is a problem at some venue, electrical fittings at another and equipment at the third. Dikshit has it all filed away.
“If things go all right,” she said matter-of-factly, “there will be enough people to take credit for it. But if things go wrong, there will be only one person to blame, the chief minister.”
As she tucked into her sparse breakfast of sprouts and egg white, Dikshit said, “We will be ready on time, don’t worry.”
There was panic some days ago when Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennel went public with his concerns, saying the Games may have to be shifted out of Delhi.
And a few weeks before, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, which checks the government’s expenses, said work on 13 of the 19 sports venues was way behind schedule.
The sports venues are being constructed by a mix of agencies, from the Central Public Woks Department to the Delhi Development Authority to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
Dikshit’s government is also making 11 flyovers, two subways and remaking 13 roads and beautifying the city with gardens and artwork.
The other big projects racing against the Games deadline are two new Metro lines and the airport’s modernisation.
Fennel’s outburst was very embarrassing for the government. Dikshit said she let him know exactly how she felt about it.
There was just no way the chief minister would let Delhi slip up, not now, with just about a year to go.
Her entire cabinet is on Commonwealth Games duty. “I have told my ministers to go out and inspect venues, works and projects in progress whenever they can and as often as they can.”
You will find Dikshit heading off most evening — after work — to any of the sites to see for herself the progress.
“The other day I found newly installed ornamental caps missing from streetlight poles,” she said, shaking her head. But she has it under control. Dikshit is now looking for some artwork for the city.
“Some very housewifely things are left to be done,” the chief minister said, enjoying the irony of the comparison. She is as far from a housewife as any one can be, at least in her present role.