New Delhi, Dec. 9: The crown has gone, not the smile.
Sheila Dikshit awoke to a new day, out of power for the first time in 15 years, but seemingly free of the bitterness of a crushing defeat that didn’t spare even the chief minister in its sweep.
What came through was a leader, stoic enough to realise that personal victory would have meant little when her party had lost.
“I believe more than my defeat, it is the party’s defeat which is bigger. Individuals can win or lose, that does not matter,” the Congress veteran said. “What possibly I could have done by winning, when my party has lost?”
Dikshit lost by over 25,000 votes, humbled in her New Delhi constituency by Arvind Kejriwal, the civil servant-turned-politician whose party of greenhorns finished a spectacular second yesterday in the Delhi Assembly elections. If the results signalled a change, the three-term former chief minister’s residence mirrored the effect of the immediate aftermath.
Gone was the endless supply of tea and the constant chatter. The queue of supporters had reduced to a trickle. Some came to empathise, with others she had to do the handholding herself. So what went wrong?
That was the question that came back again and again through the day as the 75-year-old faced reporters from different channels.
“People assume it was price rise, but then price rise was everywhere… it didn’t become an issue elsewhere. Maybe, Delhi got enticed by the promise of rebate in electricity bill. These are conjectures…. We will have to analyse”
There are murmurs about internal squabbles. Dikshit and Delhi Congress in-charge J.P. Agarwal never got along. She didn’t get along with MP Ajay Maken either. The Congress lost in all the four Assembly seats, including Dikshit’s, that fall under Maken’s parliamentary constituency. “Yes, there should have been more coordination, there should have been more participation, but then when you lose, everything is counted. If we had won, no one would have asked this,” she said.
Why didn’t her “development” card work, despite the Metro rail and all the flyovers her government built? “We have changed Delhi in the past 15 years, this is for everyone to see. But if the people of Delhi decide to differ, how can I comment on it? I respect democracy and the verdict,” Dikshit said.
She doesn’t think anti-incumbency did the Congress in. “I do not agree that it was the anti-incumbency factor because we have been elected thrice on the same promise that we will work and we have delivered.”
In the morning, Dikshit went to meet lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung. The meeting lasted half an hour. Her officials called it a “courtesy call”. She received visitors, too, among them bureaucrats, from the chief secretary to nearly everyone down the hierarchy.
Sitting in her modest drawing room, Dikshit wouldn’t talk about the future. “For now I will rest, I (will) definitely catch up on movies. We will analyse the reasons for our loss. But right now I am not going to talk about the future,” she said.
So has life changed since yesterday? “Nothing has changed, you (journalists) are still chasing me as much as you were yesterday,” she quipped.
The smile was intact, though the crown had gone.