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'DNA' special: Sonia’s faith increases Sheila’s clout within the Congress

Thursday, 12 April 2012 - 9:30am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

The Delhi CM part of elite three-member team set up by party to analyse poll debacle.

Delhi Chief Minister (CM) Sheila Dikshit’s quiet inclusion in the three-member high-power Congress central team which would look into aspects of the party’s assembly polls debacle is being viewed as belated recognition of her stature as a three-time CM.

It now appears that this is not a one-off party assignment which has suddenly come her way. The party leadership, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has been relying on her advice ever since the party began to face one crisis after another since the autumn of 2010.

Dikshit, Congress sources said, has been advising the party on defusing the series of crises and also on matters of image-repair. In the meantime, she personally weathered a CAG storm which threatened the stability of her government last year. She may not have emerged unscathed, but the corruption charges against her somehow did not stick for long.

The Delhi CM played a critical role during the Jan Lokpal Bill movement launched by Team Anna. She used the civil society contacts of her MP son, Sandeep, to establish contact with the likes of Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. Her views were also sought on containing the damage done by the Commonwealth Games scam. She has been regularly giving her feedback to the Central leadership on a large number of issues. 

So, when the party decided to assign a team of Congressmen the difficult task of analysing the poll reverses the party suffered in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab and even Uttarakhand (where the Congress scraped through by a whisker), the party had no option but to choose Sheila Dikshit as one of the key members.

The other two members of the committee, AK Antony and Sushilkumar Shinde, are both central ministers.

Congress sources explained that all three committee members have won state elections for the party at one time or the other. Of them, Dikshit’s track record is most impressive, having scored a hat-trick and having run the state continuously for 14 years since 1998.   

She has now acquired a stature whereby factionalism in Delhi politics does not hurt her any longer.

This is what has intrigued the party high command. How does Dikshit manage to marginalise other faction leaders and easily overcome their hostility? When the Congress remains a party dominated by several key players in a single province, Dikshit remains a symbol of the “one leader one state” theory - a theory which has been propounded and implemented on the ground by Congress’s archrival, the BJP. 

It is the BJP which has made CMs like Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh the unassailable leaders of their respective states.  The Congress is curious to find out from Dikshit if it was possible for a single Congress leader to have performed better in the states in which it suffered such heavy losses. Dikshit, it is known, does not prefer a multi-pronged, chaotic approach to polls. The way she has silenced adversaries within the party suggests that she has no faith in too many cooks adding spices to the same broth.

While Dikshit is gradually being given priority assignments, it does not necessarily mean that plans are afoot to accommodate her at the Centre. There is a strong section within the Congress which believes that it is too late to bring her in and if she had to be given a berth it should have been done last year. Now, she has 18 months left before she leads her party to the assembly polls for a fourth time. But it is amply clear, that more than any other CM, Dikshit is going to be in touch with 10 Janpath and 24 Akbar Road. 

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