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Tug-of-war over, Sheila gets crown

New Delhi, Dec. 10: The Delhi electorate had no doubt who their new chief minister should be when they cast their vote on December 1 — it was Sheila Dikshit all the way. On her popularity, the Congress retained power in the state even as it lost in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

However, Dikshit’s own party took three days to formally state the obvious. Senior leader Pranab Mukherjee, the central observer for the election of the Congress legislature party leader, announced Dikshit’s name at the party headquarters this evening. The announcement was initially to have been made on Monday.

Dikshit is expected to be sworn in chief minister for a second successive term on Friday or Saturday.

The delay in Dikshit’s formal election was caused mainly by Delhi Congress chief Chaudhury Prem Singh’s not-so-publicised bid to snatch leadership from the incumbent chief minister.

The anti-Dikshit camp in the Delhi Congress decisively lost in the power struggle in the wake of the resounding poll victory. Yet, on Monday, Prem Singh, supported by several senior leaders in the Delhi Congress, pressed his case for a contest.

On Monday, the scheduled meeting of the newly elected party MLAs could not take place as the rival sides wrangled over the venue of the meeting. While Dikshit preferred the Vidhan Sabha premises, Prem Singh insisted on the DPCC headquarters, his backyard.

In the end, the high command intervened and decided to have it in neutral territory — the AICC headquarters. At the meeting yesterday, the anti-Dikshit camp stalled her election and managed to delay the process by a day. Instead of electing her, the meeting adopted a resolution authorising party chief Sonia Gandhi to name the legislature party leader.

Prem Singh and other Dikshit baiters, like former state Congress chief and Speaker in the outgoing Assembly Subhash Chopra, were present when Mukherjee announced Dikshit as Sonia’s choice for chief ministership.

It was not immediately clear whether Prem Singh has managed to extract some concessions from the party chief after his three-day challenge. Apparently, he was eyeing at least the deputy chief minister’s post, a move that Dikshit is said to have strongly opposed.

Dikshit, sources said, is likely to insist on having her way in the formation of the seven-member ministry. She might deal firmly with her rival camp this time as many of her known rivals have lost in the hustings.

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