How and why Sheila Dikshit
crushed BJP in Delhi?
By M.R. Narayan Swamy
Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's
amiable personality and a largely efficient administration
are being credited for the Congress party's surprise - and
thumping - victory in the assembly elections in the national
capital that has left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in
a state of shock.
day after the Congress edged past the BJP 3-2 in five state
elections, with only some months left for new parliamentary
polls, BJP insiders were still fumbling to explain the silent
wave that helped the Congress crush an overconfident BJP.
early as Monday morning when the counting of votes polled
in the Nov 29 Delhi elections started, most pundits and almost
all BJP leaders and punters were betting on an easy BJP win
under the leadership of warhorse Vijay Kumar Malhotra.
Malhotra easily won his seat, the Congress, despite 10 long
years in power, swept an incredible 42 seats in the 70-member
assembly. A shocked BJP finished with 23 seats, far short
of the minimum 36 needed to form a government.
once, even Congress politicians, otherwise known to invariably
credit all election victories to the Nehru-Gandhi family charisma,
praised Dikshit lavishly - an admission that she was the architect
of the party's remarkable performance.
was more so because the Congress had entered the electoral
arena as a visible underdog for a variety of reasons.
Mumbai terror savagery that killed 172 people and ignited
a wave of anger and disappointment among Indians was continuing
even as Delhi voted Nov 29. Rising food prices had seriously
affected the millions of poor in Delhi who form the bulk of
the voters. The Dikshit government had been roundly attacked
over a poorly conceived and executed road project in south
Delhi and the sealing of thousands of homes and shops after
a Supreme Court fiat.
the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which contested all the seats
in Delhi, was expected to undercut the Congress - by wooing
a large bulk of Dalit and poor voters.
and political activists now admit that while these factors
appeared to be overwhelming, there were several undercurrents
that pundits had clearly overlooked.
included Dikshit's widespread popularity that transcended
all ethnic and religious groups. BJP's Malhotra was no match
in this respect although he has been in politics for decades.
the decade she has ruled Delhi, infrastructure has developed
enormously in the form of new roads, flyovers and the gleaming
Metro, to keep pace with the city's choking traffic. Delhi
also began to get new plush buses - benefiting millions who
depend on public transport.
public transport has also gone green and polluting industries
have been shifted out of residential areas. The chief minister
earned credit for all these developments although some of
these took place because of Supreme Court pressure.
of Dikshit's pet schemes that proved enormously popular was
the “Bhagidari” (parternship) scheme, under which the Delhi
administration funded Residents Welfare Associations to carry
out local area development.
Dikshit government also paid a lot of attention to the elderly.
Delhi became the first city where “senior citizens”, those
over 60, were given privileges including the right to pay
public utilities bills without standing in queues. And though
she is not in charge of Delhi Police, she asked senior officials
to regularly meet with the elderly.
and electricity shortages have also eased in Delhi. The government
has also actively promoted water harvesting and encouraged
solar power as a green alternative. Saplings were given away
free to promote greenery. Parents of girl children from poor
families got special financial sops.
paid attention to the development of the Indraprastha University
as well as technical institutes. Internet has made payment
of house rent easy, doing away with corrupt middlemen.
all this, the high-pitched BJP propaganda against the Congress
and Dikshit failed to dent her standing - although she herself
was unsure if her party would indeed win the elections outright.
explained why the impossible happened.
doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)
who did not want to be named, told IANS: “Though we don't
come under the Delhi government, my colleagues and I always
found the chief minister very cooperative, very easy going
in all our dealings.
a period of time, I realised that her staff was equally polite.
She did not tolerate corruption. Even the poorest could access
her easily on any issue. I am not surprised she won.”
Sudha Pai, a schoolteacher: “To me, Sheila Dikshit is dignity
personified. She could well be your next door neighbour. She
seems to have no air about herself. Naturally, I voted for