The Telegraph
Sunday , March 23 , 2014
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Away from AAP, Sheila hops on train, draws laughs

Dikshit in Ernakulam on Wednesday. (PTI)

Thiruvananthapuram, March 22: Toppled in Delhi by the Aam Aadmi Party, Sheila Dikshit could be excused for thinking that an aam makeover was what she needed in her new job as Kerala governor.

But if that was her intention in catching a train on Wednesday, it has done little to dam the stream of sarcasm pursuing her in the southern state since her appointment last week.

The former Delhi chief minister took the Kochuveli-Amritsar Express to travel part of the way to a public event in Ernakulam, huddled in an AC II coach with ordinary passengers and her entourage of five. She got off at Kochi to cover the rest of the distance in her official car.

Union minister of state K.V. Thomas, the Congress Lok Sabha candidate from Ernakulam, received the governor at Kochi railway station. To TV crews jostling for a sound bite, all Dikshit would say was that the trip had been “wonderful’’.

But the social media was abuzz with speculation — some of it with tongue firmly in cheek — about her motives.

A comment on a Malayalam news portal read: “She is clever (and) knows about Kerala roads. From Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam, she can’t travel like Delhi.’’

The reference was clearly to the condition of the state’s national highways.

The stretch of NH47 between Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, which witnesses heavy traffic, is still only a two-lane road and reveals potholes after the slightest of showers.

Raj Bhavan sources merely said the governor “preferred to travel by train’’.

Since her appointment as governor, Dikshit has been the subject of much ridicule in Kerala, not least on the Facebook page of outspoken actress Rima Kallingal.

“Ha Ha Ha. All women journalists in Kerala… Beware. You will all have to get home by 6pm of (if) Shiela Dixit has her way!’’ Rima wrote, provoking a barrage of comments, for and against her post.

Rima seemed to be alluding to a comment Dikshit had purportedly made in October 2008 after the murder of journalist Soumya Viswanathan, shot while driving home from work at a pre-dawn hour in Delhi.

“All by herself till 3am at night in a city where people believe... you know... you should not be so adventurous,” the then chief minister was quoted as saying.

Kerala Aam Aadmi Party leader Manoj Padmanabhan was not very charitable when asked whether he could see his party’s influence on Dikshit’s decision to take a train.

“It could be that. We don’t know if this is part of an effort to make up her lost image,” Padmanabhan said.

“But even if she walks down from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi, her appointment as Kerala governor is a slap in the state’s face.’’

Dikshit replaces Nikhil Kumar, who quit as governor to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Bihar on a Rashtriya Janata Dal ticket. Her willingness to take a train, however, contrasts with a move by Kumar’s predecessor H.R. Bharadwaj.

Soon after assuming charge in January 2012, Bharadwaj had proposed that the Kerala government buy an Audi Q7 for the governor’s use.

But with media reports revealing that a Rs 40-lakh Mercedes E-class had been added to the Raj Bhavan’s fleet less than six months earlier, the government found it easy to shoot the request down.