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Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit cremated, but her legacy lives on

Hundreds of Delhi citizens participated in the funeral procession and later the final rites conducted with full state honours.

delhi Updated: Jul 22, 2019 07:15 IST
Soumya Pillai
Soumya Pillai
New Delhi
People pay their last respects to former chief minister Sheila Dikshit at the AICC headquarters on Sunday.
People pay their last respects to former chief minister Sheila Dikshit at the AICC headquarters on Sunday.(Arvind Yadav and Vipin Kumar/HT)

Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s final journey — from her house in Nizamuddin East to the party headquarters at Akbar Road and then at the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium — passed by the symbols of legacy, Dikshit leaves behind after her three term as the chief minister.

The funeral procession passed through the green landscape on the sides of the wide roads, the flyovers and the Delhi Metro line crossing the Yamuna — just metres away from where she was cremated on Sunday. Despite the season’s heaviest rainfall on Sunday, hundreds had gathered to bid farewell to the departed leader. Besides the who’s who of the political landscape, hundreds of Delhi citizens participated in the funeral procession and later the final rites conducted with full state honours.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who also paid her homage at the Congress headquarters before coming to the funeral, said Dikshit was like an elder sister and her death was a big loss to the Congress. “She was a friend, almost like an elder sister. This is a big loss,” Gandhi told reporters. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and her husband Robert Vadra were also present.

Union home minister Amit Shah and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy CM Manish Sisodia too offered tributes. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath, Chhattisgarh CM Ashok Gehlot, former members of Parliament Kapil Sibal and Mani Shankar Aiyar were among those paid their respect to Sheila Dikshit at the party office.

BJP patriarch LK Advani and former union minister Sushma Swaraj reached Dikshit’s residence early on Sunday to meet the family and offer condolence. Her colleagues in the Delhi Congress, Ajay Maken, JP Aggarwal, Arvinder Singh Lovely, Chattar Singh, AK Walia and Kiran Walia were also present with the Dikshit family throughout the funeral procession and during the cremation.

Grassroots level party workers, friends and admirers also attended in hordes. “I was with Congress and have worked with her closely, but I am with the BJP now. Two years ago, when my son was getting married I was struggling to book a venue for the reception. It was she who called up people and got a hall booked. That was the kind of person she was, she loved her people irrespective of their political affiliations,” said Vijaylakshmi Chaddha, a BJP worker.

After the prayers, the crowd, that was being contained by barricades and ropes from reaching near the site where her body was kept, could not be contained as people pushed through security to get a closer look.

Supporters were seen taking bit of the flower garlands placed over Dikshit’s casket as a souvenir. Even as news of her body being placed inside the CNG furnace was conveyed to the general public outside, onlookers patiently waited, keeping an eye on the chimney to bid a final goodbye to the Congress leader.

Many were making video calls to their friends and party colleagues so that they could witness the cremation. “My father is 78 years old and has been with the Congress since his teenage days. He could not be here for the funeral but I wanted him to be a part of it so I showed him the ceremony on a video call,” said Mahavir Singh Yadav, an AICC member.

Before reaching the cremation ground the hearse van also passed the Delhi Congress office at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, where she had spent hours discussing the strategy to rebuild the party in the Capital. “Despite her health issues, she was always here in the afternoon discussing strategies for elections and taking stock of the performance of local units. Till the very last day she was involved in party activities. She loved Congress and she loved Delhi,” said Kiran Walia, former minister in the Sheila Dikshit government.

On Sunday, Delhi deputy chief minister and education minister Manish Sisodia tweeted: “Clarification and for the purpose of information: Tomorrow all schools and government offices in Delhi will remain open. Because of state mourning, cultural and inaugural programmes have been cancelled.”

First Published: Jul 22, 2019 01:18 IST

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