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Sheila Dikshit: Standing tall amidst all odds

December 10, 2008 15:08 IST

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Coverage: Assembly polls 2008

Sheila Dikshit have sailed many a time through the rough waters and now stands taller as a leader than ever before as she is all set to become the chief minister of Delhi for a third consecutive term, an unparalleled feat for a Congress leader in recent times.

In the Grand Old Party, no one else has the record of a hat-trick term in the top office of a state other than Mohan Lal Sukhadia, who was the chief minister of Rajasthan for 17 long years, and Krishna Sinha in Bihar for 14 years.

This assembly election raised her profile, which was evident as the meeting of the legislature party took just 90 minutes to elect her as its leader while it took almost a week for the party to choose her as the chief minister in 2003 due to intense lobbying for the post.

Congress' hat-trick electoral victory in New Delhi [Images] bears testimony to the able leadership of Dikshit who beat challenges posed by her detractors and anti-incumbency besides keeping the Bharatiya Janata Party at bay.

Though Congress had not declared its chief ministerial candidate, the party had during campaigning given clear indication that if voted to power, the 71-year-old will have a 'third innings'.

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.

She 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.

With acumen in administrative and legislative issues, Dikshit got involved herself in politics in a big way after the 1969 split in Congress. Faced with one of the biggest challenges of her life, Indira Gandhi [Images] trusted only a handful of her supporters, including Uma Shankar Dikshit.

As her father-in-law's workload increased manifold in the wake of this development, Sheila stepped in to assist him. While managing 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.

First elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984 from Kannauj of Uttar Pradesh [Images], she served as a Minister under Rajiv Gandhi [Images] first as the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and later as a Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office.

In 1989, she lost the elections from Kannauj. Dikshit spent years in wilderness after Rajiv Gandhi's death and returned to the mainstream only after Sonia became the party chief.

The Congress sprang a surprise in 1998 when it made her faction-ridden Delhi Congress president and chief minister. Her detractors attacked her calling her an 'outsider' who would not last long in Delhi.

However, after 10 years of being in power, she has only grown stronger and taller as a leader as has been testified by the popular mandate the Congress got under her leadership and for her governance.

Riding on the twin-plank of governance and development, she proved futile all the attacks and criticism against her from within and outside Congress as she led the party to victory almost single-handedly.

While the BJP unleashed a battery of national leaders to campaign for party candidates in the polls, Dikshit was the only star campaigner for the party though party chief Sonia Gandhi [Images] and young leader Rahul Gandhi [Images] addressed two public meetings in favour of the party candidates.

She was repeatedly targetted over the Bus Rapid Transit System, sealing and demolition, price rise and security of women. But apparently, these failed to move the voters against her.

Her government is being credited with developing infrastructure and better transport facilities to Delhi with the Metro Rail topping the list.

The 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 area.

Dikshit mantra during her last ten years as chief minister was good governance and development with a promise to make Delhi rise to world-class standards.

Focussing 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.

Bhagidari helped the Congress in pursuing its aim of getting rid of pollution in Delhi and solve problems of encroachments.

At the fag end of her tenure, Dikshit's pet project BRTS was embroiled in a controversy with her detractors and Opposition parties alleging that it was a 'mismanaged' project.

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