Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit says the Assembly election victory in 3 states shows Congress can’t be written off.
New Delhi: Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, whose government was ousted by Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2013, has suggested that she will not stand in the way of an alliance with it if her party high command decides.
Dikshit and Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Ajay Maken have been averse to the idea of a tie-up with the AAP in the past. In June, they held a press conference together and maintained that there was no question of an alliance with Kejriwal’s party.
However, in an interview to ThePrint, Dikshit said: “Even when I was the CM of Delhi, I could say some things, give an idea or opinion. But the decision has to be taken by the high command and that decision will be taken only by the high command. Do we go in for a gathbandhan (alliance) or we don’t go for it? There is some talk but I don’t know how serious it is. The AAP also has to come forward… whether it will come forward or not come forward (sic). It’s too early to say or to come to a conclusion just now.”
On a more proactive role
Dikshit did not rule out the possibility that she could play a more proactive role in politics, especially in Delhi, in the future. However, she said the final call would have to be that of the high command.
“This decision of who does what has to be taken by the party high command. And whatever they ask whoever to do, they will do it (sic). Now, it is not a matter of my choice or individual choice, it is the party’s request or order,” she said.
Delhi CM face or unit chief?
Asked if she could be positioned as the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in the next elections, due sometime in 2020, Dikshit, who served as Delhi chief minister for 15 years from 1998 to 2013, said: “The question of becoming the chief ministerial candidate is right now not there because this government is going to last another year and a quarter or something (sic). So, there’s no hurry in that. And we already have a person who is the chairman of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee. So, unless that is done, I am not even foreseeing anything or thinking of anything. When it happens, we will think about it, if it happens.”
Ajay Maken, who heads the Delhi unit of the party, has been keeping unwell and had gone abroad for a check-up. According to a senior Congress leader, Maken had conveyed to the party’s leadership his inability to continue on medical grounds.
“The party has asked Maken to continue for some time and is also considering other options. One of the suggestions is to hand over the charge to Sheila Dikshit. Now that the (Assembly) elections in three states are over, a final decision is likely to be taken,” said the leader.
The bigger threat — BJP or AAP?
Dikshit said she considered both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the AAP as Congress’ rivals, but pointed out that the latter’s popularity was waning.
“In Delhi, previously there used to be the BJP and the Congress, and now the AAP has also come. But the AAP is also losing a lot of its glamour, popularity. So, let’s see what happens,” she said.
When asked to rate the tenure of the AAP government, Dikshit said it has not kept its promises.
“They have spoken a lot, they haven’t done anything,” she said. “They came with two slogans primarily — free water and free power. Have they given free water or power? Is it a political party which can be trusted to keep its promises? I doubt it.”
‘Can’t write off Congress’
The former CM believes that the Congress’ victory in the recent Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh is a signal that the party cannot be ignored.
“There were many people in this country, particularly the BJP and other large parties like that, who thought they could write off the Congress but I think under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership it has been proved that you can’t write off the Congress at all. It is very much there. Having won in these three big states is an indicator that we are very much there and the people want the Congress (sic).”
When asked if she sees Gandhi as the future Prime Minister, Dikshit said this will be decided by the party.
“I can’t say that. I wouldn’t like to say anything like that. Let us see what happens,” she said.
“If we win the elections, the party takes a decision on who will be heading the party. Rahul Gandhi, at the moment, is working hard as the president of the party. But I have not seen him or heard him say anything about being the Prime Minister of this country. If he wins, and I hope he will, the decision will be taken by the party at that time.”
The anti-Sikh riots shadow
Asked whether the conviction and sentencing of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots will affect the party’s chances in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Dikshit said: “I don’t think it will have any impact. It has taken a long time for the courts to take a decision. The decision has been taken. But I don’t think it will have any particular impact on this.
“Mr Sajjan Kumar has been convicted by a court. Now it’s for him to decide and the courts to decide whether it can go up to the SC (Supreme Court) or not. The decision of the court is something that has to be accepted and if it is not accepted, is there an alternative for you to have it reviewed? He’s welcome to have it reviewed.”
On the BJP questioning the role of newly sworn-in Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath in the 1984 riots, the former Delhi CM said: “The BJP will do it in any case. It wants to do it without knowing anything about it. Kamal Nath has been very categorical about saying he’s wasn’t involved in anything like that. So let’s take his word for that.”