Governance Now Visionary Talks Series

In naming Dikshit, Congress tries to make a serious pitch

Former Delhi leader can attract brahmin votes, but party is not a top contender in UP

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | July 14, 2016 | New Delhi


#UP Polls   #Assembly Elections   #Uttar Pradesh   #BJP   #Congress   #Sheila Dikshit   #Uttar Pradesh elections  


Sheila Dikshit, Congress veteran and former chief minister of the national capital, will be the chief ministerial candidate of the party for the Uttar Pradesh elections, scheduled for early next year.

Dikshit has set the record as the longest-serving chief minister of Delhi. I remember interviewing her just after her party had won the 2008 assembly elections, giving her a third term. I asked her when we would see her in national politics, and she had said that it was up to the party to decide her role. While plans for her greater role in national politics were being discussed, she lost the 2013 assembly elections to Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal.

Dikshit’s entry into politics has been called accidental. She was married to Vinod Dikshit, an IAS officer and son of Uma Shankar Dikshit, a union minister in the Indira Gandhi government. It was through this family connection that she landed in politics. While she served as a parliamentarian from UP once, she lost three consecutive Lok Sabha elections from the state after 1989, before moving to Delhi politics in 1998.

While serving as the chief minister in Delhi for 15 years, Dikshit brought immense growth and infrastructural development in the city. Her focus was on improving health, education, infrastructure and transport. She has been widely recognised for her contribution in the development of the city. However, she also faced widespread criticism for alleged scams related to Commonwealth Games infrastructure in 2010 and now for the contracts for water tanks.

Uttar Pradesh, which has sent to the Lok Sabha the maximum number of prime ministers so far, was a stronghold of the Congress once upon a time. However, with the rise of the BJP as well as the regional forces, the grand old party has lost a lot of ground in the state. It has been relegated to the fourth position, though the party is trying hard to regain the lost ground. The Congress at present has only two Lok Sabha seats from the state – that of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, and in the assembly it has 28 representatives.

Ahead of the next big gamble on the radar, as BJP and Mayawati’s BSP are roaring to trounce the ruling Samajwadi Party, the Congress is not seen as a main player, but UP being the most populous and politically key state, Dikshit’s new role is going to attract attention.

The decision to give the command of the UP elections to Dikshit will be critical for the party. Dikshit, 78, has changed the look of the national capital. But Delhi is different from UP, in both geographical and demographical sense. She is not at the peak of her career and in fact lost her last election in Delhi.

But caste plays a very important role in UP assembly elections. She is a brahmin, a cast that constitutes around 13 percent of voters in the state. And all the parties today are trying hard to woo brahmin voters because of their crucial numbers in the state. So, she would be the face of critical brahmin voters and also of development she carried out as Delhi chief minister. The Congress definitely relies hard on these two factors.

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