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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Citizens gather to pay last respects to longest serving CM

Sheila Dikshit, 81, had fought at least eight state and general elections. The 2019 Lok Sabha polls were her last where she unsuccessfully contested from North East Delhi.

delhi Updated: Jul 22, 2019 01:22 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
New Delhi
Sheila Dikshit, after her defeat in the Delhi Assembly Election in 2013.
Sheila Dikshit, after her defeat in the Delhi Assembly Election in 2013. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT Archive)
         

At the Congress headquarters on Sunday, there were former PM Manmohan Singh, several chief ministers and political stalwarts like LK Advani and Sonia Gandhi.

Then there was Riyazuddin Sheikh, 56, a grass root Congress worker. He carried a tiny framed picture of Sheila Dikshit campaigning in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls.

Dikshit, 81, had fought at least eight state and general elections. The 2019 Lok Sabha polls were her last where she unsuccessfully contested from North East Delhi.

“After the elections, she met the workers who had toiled with her. We were demoralised by the Congress’s defeat. We shall rise again, she had said,” said Sheikh, who came from Seelampur.

On Sunday, thousands, even those not affiliated with the party, turned up at the All India Congress Committee headquarters to pay their respects to Dikshit – who ruled Delhi for 15 years.

Among those who were present at the funeral was SK Sharma, the Delhi Assembly secretary when Dikshit first became the CM in 1998. “She was one CM who would have faith in the opinions and decisions of officers. She was so considerate that she came for the last rites of my son, who died at 21, even when I had told nothing about it to her. I remember how she held on to my inconsolable wife at the Lodhi Road crematorium in 2005,” he said.

The crowds had a number of elderly too. Prabhu Tiwari, 74, came from Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh. “I worked in her constituency office in the later 1980s when she first became a member of parliament from the Kannauj seat. She had run campaigns for women’s welfare in the state back then,” he said.

Ragini Kaul, who was Dikshit’s junior at Miranda House, said her experience of the young Sheila was very different from the time when she became the CM. “I used to be intimidated by her back in college. She used to come across as a stern and sophisticated lady. Dikshit’s younger sister Pam Malhotra, who lives across the street from her residence, was my classmate. So, it was later when she became the CM and I used to visit Pam that I saw Sheila’s softer side,” she said.

Eighty-year-old Shanti, who goes by her first name, had tears in her eyes. “I am an ordinary woman. But, Dikshit was so affable that she would meet and talk without making anyone feel uncomfortable or small. She would ensure no one left without having tea and snacks at least. She would say ‘kaam toh hota rahega, pehle aap log khaiye’,” said Shanti, who came from the staff quarters in Khan Market.

First Published: Jul 22, 2019 01:22 IST

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