Sheila Dikshit comes out of a booth after voting on Wednesday. Picture by Yasir Iqbal
New Delhi, Dec. 4: Hundreds of party workers swarmed the leader’s official residence. Officials analysed feedback from the ground and barked orders into the phone. Well-wishers and relatives trooped in and out as security personnel stood by watching the chaos.
It was the day before people were to decide the fate of the leader — their chief minister for 15 years.
But Sheila Dikshit appeared unfazed. “I have no lust for power, doesn’t matter whether I win or lose. I tried to give good governance, tried to change Delhi. If people want to reject me, I have no problem,” she told The Telegraph, taking time off her packed schedule.
Was that the refrain of someone who had already thrown in the towel?
Dikshit, seemingly nonchalant, made it immediately clear it was not so. “I am touring different parts of Delhi. Meetings have been good and the feedback that I get is entirely different from what the media says. I am confident of forming the next government,” she said.
She dismissed the perception that she would lose from her New Delhi constituency, arguing it was beyond her comprehension how the media could be so disconnected from the reality.
But the Congress veteran seemed to be in agreement when pointed out that Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has had an impact and that a large section of the poor, the Congress’s traditional supporters, had turned hostile.
Dikshit appeared dismayed by the shifting loyalty among the poor, hinting that the politics of showering largesse on the masses had proved to be counter-productive as it had drastically raised aspiration levels.
She agreed that the AAP would cut into votes but argued that it didn’t have candidates who could win.
That’s where the Congress, and the BJP too, may have misread the situation.
|Look, Ma, an aam aadmi in the queue but why is he smiling?
Rahul Gandhi becomes the head-turner at a New Delhi polling station as he queues up to cast his vote on Wednesday. (PTI)
In most constituencies, voters didn’t know who the AAP candidates were but still saw them as agents of change. An overwhelming number of AAP supporters, too, didn’t know the names of the candidates and didn’t recognise them, but merrily sang “is bar jhadu chalega (broom, this time)”.
In Dikshit’s constituency, the Kejriwal buzz had many Congress supporters worried. Some even voiced fears in private that their leader could lose. “Khel kharab ho gaya,” said one of her staunch supporters, pointing to the large crowds who talked of change.
Asked what they had against the chief minister, most voters praised her but said they wanted change.
Some government officers argued that Dikshit was still the best bet as the BJP had nothing to offer and Kejriwal was just a rhetoric. But the poor seemed to have been enamoured of the crusader who succeeded in selling the dream of a government that would give cheaper electricity, water, safety and a greater degree of people’s participation in policy-making.
Dikshit, who repeatedly claimed that at least 20 of her MLAs had already made it and was confident of 10 more candidates pulling it off, refused to accept that she was nervous. Asked if she had slept well last night, she said: “I am 75 and after holding six to eight rallies in a day, I am so tired that I get sounder sleep than the normal days. Last night I went to bed at 11.30 and immediately fell asleep. I woke up at 6.30.”