Hours after being named the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, Sheila Dikshit said she will go into the polls with “conviction and confidence” about resurrecting the party’s electoral fortunes.
The former Delhi chief minister was named on Thursday as the Congress’ candidate based on her “experience and good work” in the national capital. For Dikshit, the announcement marks a return to active politics since Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party took over Delhi.
Thanking the Congress leadership for giving her the “big responsibility”, the 78-year-old said Priyanka Gandhi could be a “very big asset” for the party whose workers have been calling on the younger Gandhi to campaign vigorously in the state.
Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls early next year, will be a major showdown for political parties as the state votes on the largest contingent of MPs to be elected to the Lok Sabha.
Given its political significance, each party is vying for vote banks that will secure a majority. To this end, securing the Brahmin vote bank will be paramount.
The Congress’ choice to project Dikshit, who is the daughter-in-law of the state Congress heavyweight Umashankar Dikshit, is said to be a bid on winning this section over.
The BJP however dismissed this, stating Dikshit was chosen to be the scapegoat for “the certain loss” the party – primarily Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi – would face, dubbing the Congress a sinking ship.
“She is almost 80 and a retired and elderly leader. There were first reports about Rahul Gandhi being his party’s face in UP and then Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was projected. Now they have named Dikshit. She has been projected so that she could be blamed for the certain loss Rahul and Priyanka will suffer in the state,” national secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
“Our fight is with Samajwadi Party and Congress is not even in reckoning. It is sinking ship,” he added.
Dikshit led the Congress to three consecutive victories in Delhi Assembly polls in 1998, 2003 and 2008 before facing a humiliating drubbing in 2013, even losing her own seat. However, she seemed confident of repeating the feat in Uttar Pradesh.
“I wish to fulfil the responsibility sincerely and help Congress improve its performance. The demand for Congress’ return to power in the state is rising… It is a big challenge and I am up for it,” she said.
After the crushing defeat in Delhi assembly in December 2013, Dikshit was almost out of active politics.
She was appointed governor of Kerala by the UPA government in March 2014, just before the model code of conduct came into force for the Lok Sabha polls, and then resigned in August that year.