Delhi Congress chief and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit passed away on Saturday (July 20, 2019) due to heart attack in New Delhi. The 81-year-old Congress leader had been ailing for quite some time now.
Dikshit is best known as the longest serving chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms from 1998 to 2013 during which she transformed the national capital into a greener and better city. She had a long political career during which she handled several key assignments.
Graceful and dignified, she is credited with making Delhi a modern city, continuously upgrading the civic amenities to cater to an ever-increasing population of the city, largely due to migration from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states.
To transform the way Delhiites travelled, she introduced the new-tech low floor buses to replace the old rickety DTC buses. The Delhi Metro saw rapid expansion during her tenure. In fact, Delhi got its first metro train between Kashmere Gate and Shahdara in 2002 during her tenure.
To curb pollution in the city, her government changed all public transport to run on CNG instead of diesel, a move that saw a lot of resistance from, and a series of hartals by, the transporters.
However, she refused to buckle under the pressure and went ahead with her CNG plan. In the hindsight, the city will always be thankful to her for this step. As the CNG availability became easier, a lot of private cars too have been switching to CNG for its higher fuel economy and cheaper rate than petrol and diesel.
During her tenure, Delhi successfully hosted the Commonwealth Games 2010, though a lot of charges of corruption were levelled by the opposition based on a CAG report in the procurement of goods for the games. However, nothing has ever been proved in the courts.
As a politician, she struck a chord with every section of the society. Soft spoken and graceful, her office at the Delhi Secretariat was always teeming with visitors. And she made time for almost everyone despite her busy schedule.
The iftar hosted by her was an event people in the city looked forward to every year. It used to be a huge event where city’s who’s who rubbed shoulders with a massive crowd of commoners. She played the perfect host at the do. The ministers and MLAs would look upto her as their ‘didi’ (elder sister), not a boss.
In December 2013 elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly, she lost to Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal in the New Delhi constituency.
Her last official assignment was that of Governor of Kerala. She was sworn-in on March 11, 2014. But as the Union government changed, she resigned on August 25 the same year. She was last year appointed the Delhi Congress chief.
Born Sheila Kapoor on March 31, 1938 in Punjab’s Kapurthala, she was educated at the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in New Delhi. She did her post-graduation in history from the Miranda House college, Delhi University.
She was married to Vinod Dikshit, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and son of freedom fighter and former West Bengal Governor Uma Shankar Dikshit. She is survived by her two children -- son Sandeep Dishit and daughter Latika.
Remembering Dikshit, her former cabinet colleague Ajay Maken said he would always be grateful to the former chief minister for “the way she groomed me as a young politician”.
Maken said that Dikshit never allowed her ego to come in the way of Delhi’s development. He recalled how just days ahead of the Delhi Metro’s maiden run in December 2002, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government appointed senior BJP leader and former Delhi chief minister Madan Lal Khurana as chairman of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
Maken said that as the then transport minister of Delhi, he suggested the chief minister should protest against the move .
“She did not agree, contending that her opposition would delay the project. She realised that since Delhi is as a Union Territory, it was not in our interests to fight with the central government. To her, the development of Delhi was more important than anything else,” Maken told NH.