Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit breathed her last at a super specialty hospital this afternoon leaving a huge void in the politics of Delhi and in the party she represented her entire life.
The 81-year-old former three-term Delhi Chief Minister succumbed to two cardiac arrests after being admitted to Fortis Escorts Heart Institute this morning. The facility said specialists led by cardiac expert Ashok Seth could not resuscitate her and she passed away at 3.55 pm.
The news was received with shock across political circles with President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former PM Manmohan Singh, UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh leading the condolences.
A common thread in all the remembrances was Dikshit’s contribution to the development of India’s capital Delhi.
As the only woman CM to serve three consecutive terms, Dikshit led Delhi’s transition from a stifled city to a capital of global standards. The public transport switch from diesel to CNG, the flyover networks to ease congestion, Delhi Metro project’s conclusion are glorious parts of her legacy in Delhi, a city state she governed from 1998 to 2013.
“Sheila ji’s contribution to Delhi is a yardstick for all future governments. She looked after all parts of Delhi from slums to elite colonies. She had everything covered,” said Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi.
Born in Kapurthala in 1938, Dikshit had a love marriage with Vinod Dikshit, who went on to serve in the IAS.
“Sheilaji often spoke of how Vinod ji was not employed when the two fell in love. But she was insistent on marrying him and her parents had to come around,” says Congress leader Archana Dalmia, who met Dikshit day before and recalled how high spirited she looked.
Dikshit’s early steps into politics were actually thanks to her matrimony though people say she was destined to enter the field.
Her father in law Umashanker Dikshit, a Congress stalwart from Uttar Pradesh, was part of late PM Indira Gandhi’s cabinet.
“I have known Sheila ji for over half a century. Her father in law Umashanker Dikshit was a colleague in Indira ji’s cabinet. She was like my younger sister,” says Congress veteran Karan Singh.
Sheila Dikshit won her first Lok Sabha election from Kannauj in 1984 and remained MoS until 1989. The milestone in her political journey arrived when she became Delhi Congress chief in 1998 and went on to serve as Delhi CM for 15 yeays thereafter.
Her super run ended in 2013 when she lost state elections to AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal, who succeeded her as Delhi CM.
Though Dikshit was appointed Kerala governor in 2014 she returned to active politics in no time and became party’s CM face for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections. The plan was dropped after Congress and SP alliance.
But veterans recall Dikshit for her ever fighting spirit.
As Karan Singh says, “She was full of dynamism. Despite her increasing age she took on whatever responsibility was given to her. May of us felt she should not have contested Lok Sabha elections and I personally asked her not to stand but she went ahead because the party wanted her to stand. She even took up Delhi state president ship. Till the very end of life she remained a fighter.”
Not many know that Dikshit had a fall in the middle of 2019 LS campaign which she lost to BJP’s Manoj Tewari in North East Delhi. The fall bruised her forehead but not her spirits.
A warrior to the finish, Dikshit did have her share of challenges in the sunset years of life with the Commonwealth Games Scam never ceasing to haunt her legacy in Delhi.
It was ironical that she went down to Kejriwal, the product of Anna Hazare’s anti corruption movement and the man who could never get her to ally with him for the 2019 General Election.
In the end, Sheila Dikshit exited on her own terms. She leaves behind a son and a daughter. Family said the cremation will take place tomorrow at 2.30 pm at Delhi’s Nigam Bodh Ghat.
Her tenure was significant in respect of transformation of Delhi. She will be remembered for her contributions.— Ram Nath Kovind, President
Blessed with a warm and affable personality, she made a noteworthy contribution to Delhi’s development. — Narendra Modi, PM
In her death, the country has lost a dedicated Congress leader of the masses.— Manmohan Singh, former PM
I’m devastated to hear about the passing away of Sheila Dikshit ji, a beloved daughter of the Congress party. — Rahul Gandhi, Cong leader
A political era has passed away with her. Had known her for 40 years. She was like an elder sister to me, guiding and supporting me in my difficult moments. I will miss Sheila ji. She was always very sensible and loving. — Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab