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Sheila Dikshit Understood Limited Powers of Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal Doesn’t

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By Sidharth Mishra

Sheila Dikshit's success as Delhi CM was largely due to the understanding of the limited powers her position had, something which her successor Arvind Kejriwal refuses to comprehend.Those who have followed Sheila Dikshit’s career trajectory closely would vouch for her ability at histrionics and the use of right words at the right time. 

When she faced dissidence soon after taking over as Chief Minister of Delhi — she makes a mention about it in her soon to be launched autobiography Citizen Delhi: My Times, My Life — she had ‘feigned’ illness and gone into a shell, refusing to engage with her detractors. The first interview she chose to give on the rebellion, albeit after the dust had settled down a wee bit, was to this writer, where she had said that her differences with her colleagues were due to the “clash of cultures”.  These words went a long way to define her politics in Delhi — which largely focused at creating and addressing a new constituency which would take on the dominant Baniya and Punjabi communities of Delhi.

Much before a Nitish Kumar or for that matter Narendra Modi, it was Sheila Dikshit who mastered the art of development politics. Her success at it, winning three elections in a row, was more admirable as her powers as the Chief Minister of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) were much less compared to her counterparts in full-fledged states.   Her success as CM was largely due to the understanding of the limited powers her position had, something which her successor Arvind Kejriwal refuses to comprehend. She mentions in her book about her face-off with her immediate predecessor Sushma Swaraj during the 1998 poll campaign.

"I remember being part of a face-off with Sushma Swaraj before an audience in a programme shot close to the National Stadium near India Gate. I think that debate was an important turning point in the campaign, for Sushma dramatically announced that she would keep awake at nights to ensure that Delhi remained safe, that she would go from police station to police station at night to see if the police was vigilant. I replied, ‘Sushmaji, I should perhaps tell you that the police do not fall within your jurisdiction. Then why do you want to waste your time and lose your precious sleep in vain?’ That response got the audience on its feet."
Several years later, I remember seeing then Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi waiting in the ante-room of Dikshit’s residence to pay a courtesy call after taking over the hot seat. 
The same Mr Bassi, few months later, refused to acknowledge Arvind Kejriwal as his boss. Even during Dikshit’s time, bureaucracy reported to the Lieutenant Governor but still Sheila managed to command their loyalty, who in turn delivered to the city umpteenth numbers of flyovers, Metro service, CNG autos, taxis and buses and privatisation of power distribution, concluding with the successful holding of the Commonwealth Games.
How she manages to do it is something which would make a good case study in the schools of governance and management. One of her abilities was the sense of timing and in choosing the venue of Jaipur Literary Festival for the release of her biography over a big launch in one of the social watering holes of the national capital. She has shown that she has lost none of it.
Nor has she lost her capabilities as a sharp politician. While the book provides ample ammunition to target her successor Kejriwal and her vanquished rivals in Delhi Congress, the excerpts released so far don’t throw much light on her face-offs with Congress ‘high command’, Sonia Gandhi’s secretariat.
Though she managed to retain Sonia Gandhi’s faith in her right till the end of her tenure in Delhi, and also that of her children Rahul and Priyanka, but same cannot be said about her terms of engagement with Congress president’s secretariat. They successfully scuttled her entry into the Congress Working Committee (CWC) despite being better qualified than many of the other members. They also never allowed her to have a Delhi Congress president of her choice.
Knowing full well that her son Sandeep, a two-term Lok Sabha member, still has a chance to play a fruitful innings in politics, Dikshit has chosen to largely remain quiet on these matters. One can wait for the last word to be heard from Dikshit.
(The writer is senior journalist and political commentator. Views are personal)
Courtesy : News18

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