Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit admits there are ‘differences’ in the Congress family, but says the party will show a united face in the elections, in an exclusive interview with Anuradha Mukherjee:
Delhi goes to the polls for the first time after the delimitation process. Things are going to be quite different from the last three times that the city voted. How do you expect the delimitation process to affect the chances of your MLAs?
Delimitation is not likely to make a huge difference to our party’s results. Even if certain Assembly seats have been scrapped and others have a completely different demographical composition, our MLAs have been around for many years. They are not unknown entities. People in the neighbouring seats know them, too. They will go to the polls and prove their mettle.
The constituency from which you contested last time, Gole Market, has also been dissolved in the process. The air of uncertainty is having a negative effect on your workers. Where will you contest from?
As of now I am inclined to contest from the New Delhi seat. The name has been changed from Gole Market to New Delhi, but the area is more or less the same. I have worked here. There is no uncertainty. Even last time, a lot of nasty rumours were floated, but I am here.
A number of your women candidates have lost their seats in the delimitation process. Will they be accommodated, or is this the end of the road for them?
We are going into ballot mode and have to project the best candidates. A lot of new candidates are being considered. We cannot accommodate all of them (sitting women MLAs). We will try to include the better performers. But adjustments will have to be made since, in assembly polls, the voters always prefer a candidate from their home turf with whom they feel associated.
Some of your party’s heavyweights are also caught in a deadlock, for example Yoganand Shastri and Kiran Walia. Both are vying for the same seat. How will you decide who contests and who sits back?
Both Shastri and Walia are strong candidates. There is a possibility that one may contest from a neighbouring area. The party leadership is considering all possibilities. But remember that one of them is a minister.
The Congress has not projected you as the chief ministerial candidate despite a 10-year run. Have you been kept out to contain infighting in the party?
I am not being kept out. Not declaring a chief ministerial candidate has been a part of our party’s strategy in different states. Anyway, I am leading the Congress into poll in Delhi. It is a large family (Delhi Congress) and there might be differences. But now that the poll dates have been announced, we will contest with unity and confidence.
Of late, you have been personally targeted a lot by the BJP over statements made by you and the alleged failure of the government. How will you counter that?
Things in Delhi have improved, not gone down. We have done a lot of things in Delhi – social, economic and infrastructural. People know this. Delhi’s economy is booming. BJP can criticise something if they do not like what I have said. I have clarified matters with the media. We are ready with our answers.
When will Delhi Congress announce its list of candidates?
We will announce our final list in 15-20 days. November 11 is the last date for filing nominations; we will announce our names before that.