Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit passes away at 81

Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit passes away at 81

2-day mourning in Delhi, Last rites to be held on Sunday

Three-term Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit – whom admirers and detractors, friends and foes describe as a charming, gutsy, beloved, warm, affectionate, affable, adorable leader – is no more.

The 81-year-old Congress leader, who is credited with changing the face of Delhi during her 15-year stint as Chief Minister that ended in 2013 after Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP's emergence in capital's political scene, breathed her last in a hospital on Saturday after suffering successive cardiac arrests.

She was rushed to Fortis Escorts in south Delhi's Okhla in a critical condition and a multi-disciplinary team of doctors led by Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman of Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, carried out the advanced resuscitative measures. Though her stabilised temporarily, a hospital statement said, "she had another cardiac arrest and despite all the resuscitative efforts, passed away at 3:55 PM."

 

 

 

 

From President Ram Nath Kovind to Prime Minister to outgoing Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, condolences poured in as several remembered the "mother figure" of Delhi politics, who jumped into the world of politics in 1984.

Modi remembered Dikshit's "noteworthy contribution" to Delhi's development while Rahul recalled her "selfless" service as a three-term Chief Minister. Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi will "miss her wise counsel, her sweet smile and the warmth with which she would hug me" whenever they met.

Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal, who became the nemesis of Congress in Delhi, said it was a "huge loss" for Delhi and her "contribution will always be remembered".

A post-graduate in history, she had taken time off politics after 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections when Congress had made its Chief Ministerial candidate but had withdrawn after her party stitched an alliance with Samajwadi Party.

Not keeping well for some time, she was drafted once again into the hurly-burly of politics ahead of the recent Lok Sabha elections by the Congress, as it found none other than the "mother figure" to regain its position in the capital. She was not keen to fight Lok Sabha polls this time due to health issues, it was at Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's insistence that she faced the electorate but lost to Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari in North East Delhi seat.

Her last days were not out of controversy, as a section in Delhi Congress alleged that a coterie surrounding her was taking decisions in her name, which was flagged by AICC in-charge P C Chacko in a couple of letters to her.

As Chief Minister, she oversaw the infrastructure development of the capital, constructing new roads, flyovers, Delhi Metro as well as taking amenities to the poorer sections of the society. However, her stint was also not devoid of corruption allegations, especially those related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Her uninterrupted stint as Delhi Chief Minister ended in 2013 when AAP trounced the Congress, riding on an anti-corruption wave. Adding more ignominy, she lost her New Delhi seat to Kejriwal.

If her tenure saw the Congress defeating BJP in the capital thrice, she also presided over the decline as her party surrendered the pole position in Delhi to AAP in 2013 Assembly elections. However, this did not come in between to support AAP, which only survived 49 days in power then.

After the defeat, the then UPA government had in March 2014 appointed her as Kerala Governor, which she resigned in August same year after Narendra Modi assumed power.

Born in Punjab's Kapurthala in 1938 as Sheila Kapoor, she studied in Delhi and had her initiation into politics after marrying Congress veteran and Union minister Uma Shankar Dikshit's son Vinod.

She became an MP from Uttar Pradesh's Kannauj in 1984. During 1986-89 in Rajiv Gandhi government, she was Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and later as Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office.

Her entry into Delhi politics was also not easy as local Congress heavyweights were against her but she managed to defeat the then Sushma Swaraj-led BJP in the capital in 1998 to inaugurate her 15-year-old Chief Ministership.

At one point, her protege Ajay Maken, who became the youngest Assembly Speaker and later Union Minister, too rebelled against her to become one of the poles against her but an undeterred Dikshit managed to hold on, obviously charming Delhiites through her work and support from Congress high command.