Finding it difficult to move her out of the Delhi Government, a confused Congress is on the verge of burying the idea of making Sheila Dikshit the union home minister.
For the past week, there were quiet deliberations in the highest rung of the party to consider moving Dikshit out of the Delhi administration and have her replace the present home minister P Chidambaram. Barring some unforeseen developments, it is now final that Chidambaram is returning to finance ministry.
That Chidambaram takes over finance is not much of a headache for the Congress. But then who takes over the crucial union home portfolio from the Tamil Nadu politician? Initially, there was talk of either power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde or health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad being chosen for that vital responsibility. Subsequently, a suggestion was made that it was time the Congress used the resourceful and effective Dikshit at the Centre and gave her a crucial role in North Block.
UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had a closed-door meeting with Dikshit at the height of the discussions earlier this week. It was then that the difficulties of relieving Dikshit from her responsibilities as the Delhi chief minister were discussed elaborately. It is now apparent that after giving much thought to the issue, senior Congress leaders are now coming around to the idea that Dikshit cannot be spared.
First of all, the assembly election in the capital comes up at the end of 2013 when it will be suicidal for the Congress to confront its electoral opponents without the popular presence of Dikshit. There is no denying the fact that despite the recent municipal defeats, Dikshit still commands immense respect in the capital and the Congress too projects her as the architect of a ‘progressive Delhi’.
The other problem is that Dikshit has been granted enormous powers over the past 15 years and she has converted Delhi into her own fiefdom. She has gradually eliminated her critics within the party and now holds sway over affairs in the capital in a virtually unchallenged manner. Even the Opposition BJP is not yet as organised even though it has made a serious comeback in the recent civic polls.
Probably, the only other serious contender for the Delhi chief minister’s job is sports minister, Ajay Maken, the MP from New Delhi. Even then with most of the legislators handpicked by Dikshit, Maken does not stand much of a chance. Given the current composition of the Delhi legislature, Maken is not acceptable to a majority of the Congress MLAs, who prefer to swear by Dikshit.
Those close to Dikshit believe that the Congress has delayed its move to push the Delhi CM to a Central responsibility. Even if this move had been made three years back, at the time when Dikshit commenced her third term, it would have been easier for the affable leader to accept the change. Now the Congress score-sheet in Delhi may well be zero without Dikshit at the helm of the state government. The party needs her guidance in the capital badly in 2014.
For the Congress, it is back to square one. Now the choice for the union home minister’s job may again be between Shinde and Azad unless the Congress can conceive of a new name and give him or her that crucial portfolio in North Block.