Sheila Dikshit Dies at 81: Journey of The Woman Who Became Congress Warhorse in Delhi
Sheila Dikshit (Photo Credits: IANS)

Sheila Dikshit, former Delhi Chief Minister and president of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, died after suffering a cardiac arrest on Saturday. Sheila Dikshit was unwell for some time. She suddenly got sick in the morning and was admitted to a private hospital where she breathed her last. Dikshit's demise has left a huge vacuum in Congress at a time when the party is struggling to regain its lost hold.

Born into a family of politicians in Punjab, Sheila Dikshit joined active politics in Uttar Pradesh after her marriage to Vinod Dikshit, son of independence activist and former West Bengal Governor Uma Shankar Dikshit. In her autobiography, Citizen Delhi: My Times, My Life (Bloomsbury), Dikshit mentioned that she wasn't ready to enter electoral politics but her father-in-law insisted her to go ahead. Sheila Dikshit Death: From President Kovind to PM Narendra Modi And Rahul Gandhi, Here's How Politicians React to Former Delhi CM's Demise.

"I told my father-in-law I can’t do it and he said, ‘No you have to do it.’ Finally, I chose Kannauj as my constituency which I had never been to before," Dikshit wrote. She was first elected to the Lok Sabha from the Kannauj seat in 1984. After 18 months in Parliament, Dikshit got a quick promotion and was made Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. In 1987, tragedy struck her when her husband died due to a heart attack.

Dikshit's political journey in Uttar Pradesh did not last for long. She credited Sonia Gandhi for bringing her into Delhi's politics. While she lost the Lok Sabha election to Bharatiya Janata Party's Lal Bihari Tiwari in East Delhi constituency in 1998, Dikshit successfully led the Congress party in Delhi assembly elections and became chief minister for the first time. She represented the Gole Market assembly constituency in the 1998 and 2003 Assembly elections and New Delhi constituency from 2008.

Dikshit did make her name in Indian politics as the three-term chief minister of Delhi. Despite being an outsider, she was in power for 15 years before suffering defeat in 2013 at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party. During Dikshit's 15-year rule, the national capital witnessed a lot of positive changes. She is credited with major decisions such as switching the Delhi Transport Corporation’s fleet to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), privatisation of power distribution companies and building of flyovers among others.

It was Dikshit's regime when the construction of Delhi Metro began and expanded. She is also credited with trifurcation of the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Dikshit's political career almost came to an end when Congress could not win a single seat in the 2015 assembly elections, which the AAP won by a landslide. The party also failed to register a single win in Delhi in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, with the BJP emerging victorious in all seven constituencies.

Dikshit, who always had the backing of Sonia Gandhi, however, was appointed as Governor of Kerala in March 2014 by the UPA government. She resigned on 25 August 2014. She remained inactive for the next four years. Congress brought her back at the helm to revive its hopes in the national capital in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The 80-year-old replaced Ajay Maken as Delhi Congress chief.

In the Lok Sabha polls, Dikshit contested against BJP's Manoj Tiwari from the North East Delhi seat. She came second. While Congress, under Dikshit's leadership, couldn't win single Lok Sabha seat in Delhi, the party managed to push Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates on the third place in five of the seven seats. Congress's vote share also increased. Dikshit, a warhorse, will be missed by Congress.