Sheila Dikshit was named by Congress on Thursday as its chief ministerial candidate for next year’s Assembly polls in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, citing her “experience and good work” in heading the Delhi government for 15 years.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in charge of party affairs in Uttar Pradesh, said Dikshit was chosen as party’s face for the polls considering her strong credentials as the former chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms.
Election strategist Prashant Kishor had recommended that Dikshit should play a major role in the party’s poll campaign in the state, projecting her as a prominent Brahmin face and could help Congress regain support of the electorally sizeable community.
Born in a Punjabi Khatri family, Dikshit, 78, is the daughter-in-law of late Congress veteran from UP, Uma Shankar Dikshit, a Brahmin leader who had served as a Union minister and governor for a long time.
Her 15-year tenure in Delhi as CM ended with the emergence of AAP in 2013 polls.
Announcement of Dikshit’s name as CM nominee comes days after the party appointed actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar the chief of the Congress in UP.
“Her experience and good work were considered as her big credentials by the party,” Azad told a joint media briefing with party leader Janardan Dwivedi.
The party also announced coordination and campaign committees for Uttar Pradesh, which will be headed by Sanjay Singh and Pramod Tiwari respectively.
Dikshit thanked the party leadership for entrusting her with such a “big responsibility”, adding she would like to have Priyanka Gandhi campaign with her across the state.
“She (Priyanka) is a very popular leader. My plea would be that she campaign across the state,” Dikshit said.
Acknowledging that it will be “major challenge” for her in UP, Dikshit said Congress will go to the polls with confidence and that the party will take on BJP, ruling Samajwadi Party and the BSP.
The announcement was made on a day the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of Delhi sent a notice to Dikshit, asking her to join the investigation in connection with the alleged Rs 400-crore water tanker scam. Dikshit called the allegation “politically motivated”.
The Brahmin community, a traditional vote bank of the Congress, had shifted allegiance to BJP in the aftermath of the Mandir-Mandal politics.
A large chunk of Brahmin votes had also gone to Mayawati’s BSP in the past when she gave tickets to candidates belonging to the community.
The community’s support determines the poll outcome in several seats in central and eastern UP.