New Delhi: Sheila Dikshit fought off several controversies, including one that involved a demolition drive in parts of the Capital, and what was perceived to be a strong anti-incumbency drive to win a third term as chief minister of Delhi, although her party’s performance was worse than in 2003. The Congress, which has now been in power in Delhi since 1998, won 42 seats, lower than the 47 seats it had won in 2003.
Victory mode: Chief minister Sheila Dikshit with the media at her residence in New Delhi on Monday. Congress will form the government for the third time after it won 42 seats in the 29 November elections. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The understated Dikshit, 70, focused her campaign on the issue of development. In a 24 October interview with Mint, she had said: “We would like to think there is pro-incumbency (in Delhi). People feel that this is a government that has performed for the past 10 years.”
Born into a family of politicians in Punjab in 1938, Dikshit joined politics after her marriage to bureaucrat Vinod Dikshit, son of former Union minister Uma Shankar Dikshit. She started her political career as a lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh’s Kannauj in 1984 and was India’s parliamentary affairs minister from 1986 to 1989 in the Rajiv Gandhi government. She also held additional charge as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in this period. Dikshit is considered to be close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. In 1998, she was chosen by the Congress party to lead the party in the state elections.
“The Congress won the election in Delhi banking on Dikshit’s image. She has been instrumental in its third consecutive victory. Her developmental works as well as image cut well in to (with) the voters,” said Sudha Pai, professor at the Centre for Political studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Dikshit has been criticized for using the government’s publicity machinery to highlight her achievements and development-oriented initiatives but analysts credit her win to one of these, the Bhagidari or partnership scheme that seeks to have the government and citizens work together to address developmental issues.
In her 10 years in power, Dikshit has weathered several crises, including the occasional intra-party conflict. Apart from the demolition drive, her latest term was notable for the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit corridor—a move that has been widely criticized for inadequate planning and improper implementation that continue to create traffic gridlocks in certain parts of Delhi.
In the run-up to the election, the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had played up issues such as terror (Delhi witnessed terror attacks on 13 September that left at least 30 dead and the Mumbai attacks came three days before the Delhi elections) and inflation. The Congress is the dominant constituent of the UPA government, which has come under fire for its inability to control inflation. Dikshit retained her seat as a legislator with 39,747 votes in the New Delhi constitue y and defeated the BJP’s Vijay Jolly by a margin of 14,078 votes.