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Knocked out by bolt from the blue, Dikshit stares at uncertain future

Sheila Dikshit

New Delhi, Dec 8 (PTI) : After ruling Delhi for 15 consecutive years, three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit stared on Sunday at an uncertain political future after she bore the ignominy of losing to fledgling AAP's Arvind Kejriwal in a shock defeat adding to the rout of the ruling Congress.

Dikshit's electoral fortunes came crashing in the Delhi Assembly elections billed as a litmus test for Congress ahead of Lok Sabha polls next year and which witnessed the first-ever triangular contest. Congress and BJP were the traditional rivals since the first Delhi elections in 1993.

A stung Dikshit--one of the most successful woman politicians--probably could not have expected the scale of drubbing for Congress that came as a bolt from the blue as entry of Aam Aaadmi Party(AAP) altered the political landscape in the national capital.

With Dikshit herself losing from New Delhi at the hands of AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal, the future of the three-time Chief Minister appears to be uncertain.

Dikshit was the lone face of the Congress, except for a few fleeting appearances of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, as she carried the burden of the poll campaign.

She campaigned hard across the city addressing around seven to eight rallies daily to take on formidable BJP which had deployed a battery of star campaigners including its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Apart from extensive campaigning by AAP on the issue of corruption, Dikshit was faced with daunting task of overcoming the unpopular image of her party at the Centre and the under- currents within the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) where senior leaders were unhappy over her unilateral choice of candidates.

Though she bit the dust, analysts said credit cannot be taken away from Dikshit for ushering in reforms in power sector, e-governance in various departments, series of social security schemes besides significantly enhancing the city's infrastructure during her uninterrupted rule.

On the infrastructure issue, she, however, faced severe criticism ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 due to delays in implementing projects.

The taint of corruption in the CWG projects had reached the doors of her government as Prime Minister-appointed Shunglu Committee, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) pointed various alleged irregularities though she strongly refuted them.

Dikshit was often accused of not grooming second rung leaders in Delhi Congress.ncontrollable inflation, which left vegetables out of common man's reach just two months ahead of polls, also seemed to have sealed Congress' fate in its traditional bastions. Looking at AAP, born out of the civil society movement headed by Anna Hazare, as lightweight and often terming it as a “non-party”, Dikshit was served a knock out punch by greenhorn which resorted to door-to-door campaigning highlighting alleged corruption by the Congress besides focussing on its “misrule”.

Born in a non-political family in Kapurthala district on March 31, 1938, Dikshit, eldest of three daughters, was exposed to politics after she married Vinod Dikshit, an IAS officer and son of former union minister and governor Uma Shankar Dikshit.

Dikshit received her primary education at Delhi's Convent of Jesus and Mary school and graduated from Miranda House, Delhi University and obtained a post-graduation degree in History. First elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984 from Kannauj Parliamentary Constituency of Uttar Pradesh, she served as a Minister under Rajiv Gandhi first as the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and later as a Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office.

While managing her father-in-law Uma Shankar Dikshit's affairs, Sheila's potential was noticed by Indira Gandhi. Impressed by her work, Gandhi nominated Sheila as a member of the Indian delegation to the UN Commission on status of women.She served as Minister of State for Parliamentary affairs in Rajiv Gandhi's Cabinet between 1986-89 but was in brief hibernation after losing Lok Sabha elections in 1989 from Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress sprang a surprise in 1998 when it made her the president of faction-ridden Delhi Congress and then the Chief Minister.

Dikshit led Congress to victory in 2003 and 2008, riding on the twin-plank of governance and development. Her government is being credited with developing infrastructure and better transport facilities to Delhi with the Metro Rail topping the list.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which has become a flagship of development for the Delhi government, was implemented during Dikshit's tenure and is being extended to cover the entire national capital. Focusing on reforms in various sectors, Dikshit strived hard for involvement of people in decision-making by introducing concept of “bhagidari” (partnership) with Resident Welfare Associations (RWAS) but the initiative did not work during the last five years.

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