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Selling Delhi dreams

For Sheila Dikshit , these are extremely hectic times. Not only is she busy managing the party’s affairs and overseeing son Sandeep’s campaign in the East Delhi parliamentary constituency, she is also travelling to far off corners of the country to canvass for the Congress at the drop of a hat, reports Anuradha Mukherjee.
By Anuradha Mukherjee | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 04, 2009 12:16 AM IST

For Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit (71), these are extremely hectic times.

Not only is she busy managing the party’s affairs in the city and overseeing son Sandeep’s (44) campaign in the East Delhi parliamentary constituency, she is also travelling to far off corners of the country to canvass for the Congress at the drop of a hat.

Voted back in power thrice in Delhi, Dikshit is virtually a mascot for the development plank of the Congress.

In the past month, she has campaigned in states like Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and TN.

“She is a tall leader of the party, a successful woman politician and third time CM of Delhi. Apart from this, she is also from a UP family and very popular among the people,” Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, contesting from Lucknow.

Clocking 16-17 hours a day, living on frugal meals, the septuagenarian has been juggling the chief minister’s portfolio with the role of a national leader.

“I draw my energy from not eating,” Dikshit said. Apart from a breakfast of oats and sprouts and the single roti and sabzi for lunch, her day is powered by peanuts till it’s time for dinner — usually soup and toast.

In these meetings Delhi is always proffered as an example of good governance, a model for the rest of the country. Dikshit herself underplayed her role by saying that she mainly spoke of the UPA government’s policy.

“The national government puts the track on which the country runs. I mention the high growth rate now compared to the NDA’s — 5.6 per cent — despite the meltdown,” she said. But she admitted that the Congress’ achievements in Delhi were a vital part of her campaign.

“I always chip in and say that governments are for governing. The people of Delhi have chosen good, clean governance and shown the way,” she said.

The Delhi dream is sold even in rural India. She said in the rural pockets of Bihar’s Purnea and Samastipur, the youth were more receptive to her ideas. “I try to provoke them to think why they should face problems that don’t exist in other places — why they should be forced to migrate,” said Dikshit.

Dikshit’s political secretary Pawan Khera said the shift in politics in the country now meant people wanted politicians who worked for them.

“Even in rural areas — caste-ridden societies in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — they want to talk development. Dikshit is synonymous with development,” said Khera.

Yet all this campaigning and paper work at office means contact with family is minimal.

“My daughter Latika is busy with her brother’s campaign. My two granddaughters (Yamini and Aafia) are my source of smiles,” she said.

For now Dikshit’s whirlwind tours have stopped. “There were three public rallies to arrange for Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi,” said Dikshit. Her ultimate test perhaps will be May 7 when Delhi goes to polls.

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