With Sheila Dikshit — Delhi’s chief minister for 15 years — moving to Kerala on her new assignment as governor, the power centre in Delhi Congress too has shifted from 3, Moti Lal Nehru Marg to 2, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg.
For almost 10 years, 3, Moti Lal Nehru Marg had been Dikshit’s official residence. She had moved into the sprawling bungalow in 2004 after winning her second election in Delhi and remained there till January 2014, two months after her party was handed a massive defeat and dethroned by Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party.
During those 10 years, every decision — big or small — related to governance, as well as party affairs, was taken by Diskhit at her official residence.
Even though 2, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, which is the Delhi Congress headquarter, was the regular venue for workers meetings and press conferences, Dikshit’s residence was the power centre.
“During the elections it was the chief minister’s residence where all big and small decisions used to be taken,” said a senior party functionary on condition of anonymity.
“Whether it is the selection of candidates for assembly and municipal elections or the issues and programmes and promises to be included in the election manifesto or the venue for election rallies for the party president and the prime minister or the names of leaders to be printed on invitation cards, she (Dikshit) and her team used to take all decisions,” the Congress leader added.
The office-bearers of the Delhi Congress never had any role in decision-making. That may have been the reason why Jai Prakash Agarwal — Northeast Delhi MP and President of Delhi Congress for almost six years — and Dikshit were never on the same page for several years. Dikshit rarely came to the Delhi Congress office during her term as chief minister and Agarwal too was rarely part of the meetings that were held at her residence.
The equation now seems to have changed. The appointment of Sheila Dikshit as governor of Kerala has coincided with the delegation of more powers by the Congress high-command to the Delhi Congress leadership.
Sources said the central election committee’s decision to ask Pradesh leaders, led by former Delhi minister and Gandhi Nagar MLA Arvinder Singh, to review the performance and winability of seven sitting MPs is a major shift in the party’s policy. The state leadership has also been asked to work out the party’s strategy to bring back the vote bank it lost in the assembly elections.
The Congress party’s vote share dropped by almost 15% percentage points — from 40.3% in 2008 to 25.1% in 2013 — and its seat tally too came down from 43 to eight. The Delhi Congress has will also draw up party’s manifesto and identify venues for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to address election rallies.