‘Open, frank, uncomplicated and educated’: Congress MP on Sheila Dikshit

She always acted, spoke and behaved as an enlightened member of civil society and your gracious and loving aunt next door.
Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit passed away on Saturday.(Mohd Zakir / HT Archive)
Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit passed away on Saturday.(Mohd Zakir / HT Archive)
Updated on Jul 21, 2019 01:46 AM IST
Copy Link
New Delhi | ByAbhishek Manu Singhvi

I was shocked to hear of Sheila ji’s sudden demise. It was truly sudden both because there was no long preceding illness and also because not only had she recovered from her operation in France but she had been fully active for over two months during the recent elections.

Sheila ji achieved the remarkable combination of being a consummate politician (three-time CM, minister of state, governor and the holder of many other party posts) and yet appearing to be a complete non-politician. No doubt this also reflects the degradation of the word “politician”, which people are loath to apply to Sheila ji.

She always acted, spoke and behaved as an enlightened member of civil society and your gracious and loving aunt next door. This was because of her genuine and natural spontaneity, a grace which is not easily found in our public life and an attention to detail which underlined her ceaseless consideration for others.

The last time I had a close interaction with her was when I released the Congress manifesto for Delhi in one of the most well attended press conferences, flanked by Sheila ji, Chacko ji and all working Presidents of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee.

The previous day, she telephoned me to specially welcome me and added that she was cancelling all other programmes to ensure her presence. During the function she delegated completely with absolutely no sense of self-importance.

After the function she telephoned to express her gratitude. I told her that such grace and consideration was embarrassing, especially amid her hectic schedule but, in her smiling style, she said, “Abhishek ji, I was the host and you were my special guest and I had to take care.”

She was a fixture in almost every function I organised, even non-political ones, e.g. farewell for retiring judges. When she could not come, as a sitting CM, she would unfailingly send a bouquet and make a personal call to express regret.

Sheila ji’s USP was, first and foremost, the complete absence of pomp and pomposity; secondly, an ability to put her visitor completely at ease; thirdly, a grace and elegance eliminating the remotest element of crudity; fourthly, the maintenance of candour and a lack of hypocrisy (not at all easy for a three time CM); fifthly, her innate warmth which engulfed you the moment you interacted with her; and sixthly, her easy accessibility to those she knew and trusted.

No wonder the BBC called her, “open, frank, uncomplicated and educated…not coming across as devious, calculated or corrupt.” Apart from her well-known interest in film and music (from classical to western) what is less known is her desire to sit behind the wheel of a big car and drive at 120 kmph, “feeling that I am in an aircraft and not on the road.”

As a Miranda House girl, she admitted to her crush on Dev Anand and always regaled us with stories about the natural restrictions placed upon her in an upper caste Brahmin family into which she married. Ultimately, it was her father-in-law, Uma Shankar Dikshit, who may well be considered a revolutionary in encouraging her to take an active part in public life, which she began by handling her father-in-law’s work after the early death of her husband. Another rare USP was her wholesome delegation and the genuine functional autonomy she granted to her subordinates. Only Sheila ji could achieve so much during her successive terms as CM without constantly lamenting and complaining about the incomplete or partial powers of a Delhi CM under the Constitution.

A rare combination indeed for anyone in public life and one which Delhi will deeply miss for all times to come. A rare combination indeed for anyone in public life and one which Delhi will deeply miss for all times to come. Delhi from inception has had giant figures as CMs but if Sheila Dikshit is unanimously hailed as the best CM of Delhi amidst this galaxy of names, it is truly a humongous achievement.

(The author is MP; Jurist; National Spokesperson, Congress; Former Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • A view of Dhan Mill Compound at 100 Feet Road, Chhatarpur, in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Amal KS/Hindustan Times)

    Delhi: From a granary to creative business street

    For the uninitiated, Dhan Mill Compound, a former granary and a cluster of warehouses, has morphed into the city’s modish food, fashion, design and lifestyle destination. Its streets are lined with art cafes, home décor outlets, ateliers, art galleries, pottery studios, dance halls and high-end boutiques, whose facades and interiors are as interesting and experimental as the wares they deal in. Interestingly, all of these fancy establishments are housed in re-purposed warehouse buildings, which still have metal roofs.

  • Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. (Twitter/@AAPDelhi)

    Over a million got jobs on Rozgar Bazaar: Delhi govt

    According to a Delhi government official, a break-up of the total jobs, including the list of employers and the number of people they hired, will be shared “in a couple of days”. Notably, the government portal was launched by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on July 27, 2020, to help entry-level and blue-collar job seekers connect with employers at a time when the Covid-19 induced lockdown left many people unemployed.

  • Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai. (ANI)

    Govt to urge Centre to reduce tax for SUP options: Delhi minister

    “Manufactures, and start-ups which are working on alternatives to single-use plastic have to pay more GST for raw material. Hence, the Delhi government will write to the Centre and request a reduction in GST rates,” Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said.

  • A view of Humayun's Tomb on a rainy day in New Delhi, India, on Sunday, July 3, 2022. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times)

    Delhi weather: Yellow alert issued till Tuesday

    Safdarjung, Delhi’s base weather station, recorded 0.1mm of rainfall between 8:30am and 5:30pm on Sunday. The Capital recorded 1.9mm of rainfall on Saturday and 117.2mm on Friday, making the monthly total 119.2mm so far. The normal monthly average for July is 210.6mm, said weather experts.

  • Monsoon turns Hauz Khas monument into an archipelago of stony islands.

    Delhiwale: Six shades of monsoon

    Monsoon elevates Adam Khan’s tomb into an emergency sanctuary for passersby (and dogs) speared by sudden showers. Perched atop a Mehrauli hillock, the monument overlooks the Qutub Minar, which appears totally bechara and defenceless in the heavy rain.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, July 04, 2022