Under the stewardship of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the Congress government in Delhi completed nine years of uninterrupted rule on Monday. The feat will be officially celebrated only on December 15, when Dikshit took oath of office and secrecy in her second term.
Dikshit, who began her political career in Kannauj in UP, finally found a political home in Delhi when she became the Chief Minister for the first time on December 3, 1998. A rank outsider in Delhi politics, the Punjab-born Dikshit was brought in as the president of a faction-ridden Delhi Congress in 1997. Fed up with the BJP’s tenure and rise in price of onion, people voted the Congress to power. Sixty nine-year-old Dikshit has not looked back since then.
She had a tough time initially, as local Congress leaders flaunted their political muscle. She continued battling during the entire tenure and it was only during her second term that she managed to outwit her detractors and put her stamp of authority in Delhi politics.
After she won the 2003 elections, she was made to wait for over 10 days before she was given a nod to take charge. The election results, however, had made it clear that development had become the only agenda of the people of Delhi. In the politically crucial Assembly elections, the Congress lost power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh but retained Delhi, making Dikshit much stronger in the Congress. The results of the Lok Sabha elections also went in her favour with the Congress winning six out of the seven seats.
Political observers say the battle ahead in the election year is more difficult for Congress and Dikshit. “The party would be fighting anti-incumbency at two levels — Centre and state. Moreover, no Congress government has won three consecutive elections after 1977,” said a Congress leader. The dent in the Congress vote bank has already become apparent from the loss the party suffered during the MCD elections this year.
Dikshit, however, successfully managed to shift the blame to the state Congress president Ram Babu Sharma who was later removed. The Congress leaders are now unanimous that Dikshit has been given a free hand for the Assembly elections and has been seemingly made powerful to ensure that the party performs a miracle in Delhi.