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After Dikshit’s demise, Congress stares at leadership crisis months before assembly polls

Early this year, Sheila Dikshit was pulled out of a virtual retirement, to head the Delhi Congress just three months before the Lok Sabha elections.

delhi Updated: Jul 22, 2019 07:58 IST
Soumya Pillai
Soumya Pillai
New Delhi
Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit’s death has left the Delhi Congress staring at a leadership question just months ahead of the Assembly elections in the national capital.
Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit’s death has left the Delhi Congress staring at a leadership question just months ahead of the Assembly elections in the national capital. (Vivek R Nair/ Hindustan Times)
         

Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit’s death has left the Delhi Congress staring at a leadership question just months ahead of the Assembly elections in the national capital.

Early this year, Dikshit was pulled out of a virtual retirement, to head the Delhi Congress just three months before the Lok Sabha elections.

She replaced senior leader Ajay Maken who resigned from the position, citing health reasons.

Many party workers said after her death on Saturday the party is facing the tough task of choosing a new face to lead the state unit. Having faced repeated reverses in the several elections held after 2015 in the city, the Congress is trying hard to regain its lost political ground in the Capital.

Senior leaders in the party, on the condition of anonymity, said since the position of the Congress party president is also vacant at this time, the task of choosing a leader for Delhi unit will have to be done by the state unit in-charge PC Chacko.

“This is a peculiar case because the appointment of the state unit chief will have to be made on an urgent basis because of the upcoming elections,” said a senior All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader.

The leader said in the present circumstances the decision of whether the party should go into the elections with an interim chief or appoint a senior leader to lead the party will lay with Chacko.

“He can either decide to make one of the three working presidents an interim chief till the elections or suggest a fresh appointment,” the leader said.

Many in the party, however, believed that neither of the working presidents, Haroon Yusuf, Rajesh Lilothia or Devender Yadav, had the mass appeal to match Dikshit’s personality.

During the recent Lok Sabha elections, Dikshit who was leading the party’s campaign managed to pull itself to the second position increasing the party’s vote share to 22.5%, leaving the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with a vote share of 18.1%.

Speculation was rife that Dikshit may be projected as the party’s chief ministerial face in the upcoming assembly elections because of her 15 years’ record of managing the city and undertaking several development projects.

Despite his resignation early this year, to make way for Dikshit before the parliamentary polls. Among some senior leaders who might be considered for the job are Ajay Maken and JP Aggarwal.

Maken’s experience of heading the Congress at its worst phase in the city and increasing the party’s vote share in the municipal elections in 2017, will go in his favour, the official said. Former MP JP Aggarwal. Aggarwal’s neutral image in the party and his experience as the Delhi Congress chief may work in his favour, he said.

Though a section of the Congress also favoured Arvinder Singh Lovely for the position, but many believed that joining the BJP for a brief period could go against him.

Lovely contested the Lok Sabha elections from east Delhi constituency and came second.

“Though brief, Lovely’s stint with the BJP, has affected his popularity in the cadre. But he is young and has held important positions,” the leader said.

The party leadership is likely to finalise on the possible names by next month, senior functionaries said.

First Published: Jul 22, 2019 01:55 IST

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