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New Delhi: Warm and affable, Sheila Dikshit was one of the tallest leaders of the Congress who had the distinction of being Delhi’s longest serving chief minister and giving the national capital Delhi its modern look.
Considered close to the Gandhi family, she was handpicked by Rajiv Gandhi to be part of his council of ministers after he became the prime minister in 1984. She represented the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat from 1985 to 1989. For her, politics was not only about jousting for power but also about bonding with people and getting re-energised in the process.
She had said in her autobiography that politics as an engagement with ideas and people can be inspiring, but it can be reduced to banality as she experienced in the last one or two years of her third term. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said she held the distinction of being the only woman chief minister in India who has led her party to three consecutive victories in assembly elections.
Known for a string of development works throughout her 15-year stint as Delhi chief minister, Dikshit fastened the flagship Delhi Metro project, oversaw the creation of a network of flyovers in a city stressed with high population density, heavy traffic.
She also led the phasing out of the killer blue line buses, that had claimed several lives on the roads. Besides initiating good governance and development in making Delhi rise to world-class standards, she introduced participative governance (concept of ‘bhagidaari’) , involving people including resident welfare association and civic society in the decision-making process.
Even her detractors praised her for her leadership when she was chief minister. All political parties also shared good ties with her. In the midst of hectic political activity, she would often take out time for seeing a movie. Being a movie buff from her early days, she had 20 viewings of Shah Rukh Khan starrer Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaenge.
In her over three-decade political career, she had said that there is no substitute for conscientious effort, as there are far too many pulls and pressures, ups and downs, and ins and outs in politics. Ultimately, it is what you make of chance and opportunity with a measure of grace and dignity, she had once said. (PTI)