Veteran politician and senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit took her last breath on Saturday at the age of 81. For some time now, her health was deteriorating and she was admitted in Delhi’s Escort’s Hospital where at around 3:30 PM she took her last breath. As condolences for her family and friends fly in from across regions and political lines, her career in politics is sure one to be studied and appreciated.
Sheila Dikshit, despite the corruption accusations, remains one of the better Chief Ministers Delhi has seen. Even within the Congress party, she was one of those who have carved a strong and stable place for themselves despite facing rebellion. In the 15 years that she governed Delhi, a lot of it changed, mostly for the better. It was during these years that a shift to CNG buses was made, the road network improved, Commonwealth Games were successfully conducted.
Deeply saddened by the demise of Sheila Dikshit Ji. Blessed with a warm and affable personality, she made a noteworthy contribution to Delhi’s development. Condolences to her family and supporters. Om Shanti. pic.twitter.com/jERrvJlQ4X
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 20, 2019
An outspoken leader who sometimes went against the party line, Sheila Dikshit had even raised her voice against the Gandhi family. Sheila Dikshit in her book Citizen Delhi: My Times, My Life. writes about the controversial law to overturn the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case. She was elected to Lok Sabha from Kannuaj at the time when the case gathered attention. Sheila Dikshit recalls that Rajiv Gandhi had asked her to get a consensus of the party MPs around the Muslim Women’s Bill. Sheila Dikshit further recalls that after the Supreme Court verdict which declared that Shah Bano was entitled to maintenance, Gulam Mohammed Mahmood Banathwala, a self-declared “speaker for” Muslims and a leader of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) introduced a private bill that sought to exclude Muslim women from the ambit of Section 125 of the CrPC under which Shah Bano had sought relief.
Sheila Dikshit writes that Rajiv Gandhi asked the MoS for Home Affairs, Arif Mohammad Khan to deliver a strong defense of the Shah Bano judgment in the parliament and Arif didn’t disappoint Rajiv Gandhi. However, according to Dikshit, the issue was framed in such a way by the parties with vested interests across the religious and political spectrum that ‘it fell victim to the political fault lines that independent India had inherited’. To tackle the situation, Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill was introduced and all the Congress MPs were asked to speak in favor of it. Sheila Dikshit goes on to mention that many even with the Congress party doubted the necessity of such a bill and had their reservations about it but nevertheless supported it in a show of discipline.
Under Sheila Dikshit, Delhi also saw massive strides ahead in terms of infrastructure. Under her leadership, Delhi experienced massive waves of migrants from rural regions moving towards the center for better living standards, not in the best however Sheila Dikshit was successful in accommodating all these citizens moving in. Later, despite losing to Arvind Kejriwal she remained one of the most popular leaders in Delhi.
However, like every great politician, her career too had its low points. Sheila Dikshit was called out for her comments on Nirbhaya case. According to Sheila Dikshit, the Nirbhaya rape case was “blown out of proportion by the media” and there are “so many cases like this taking place today”, which hardly find a mention in the newspaper. She said, “Sometimes you ignore rapes, just a little thing in the newspaper…little children being raped…and one was made into a political scandal.” She was also blamed for mismanagement of the case. Several allegations over corruption in the Commonwealth games also marred her career.
Despite all her controversies, Sheila Dikshit will be remembered as one of the most respected and bold politicians and her contribution to the Indian political scenario will remain invaluable.