Sheila Dikshit, the three-time Chief Minister who ran the national Capital for 15 consecutive years till getting a major drubbing in the 2013 Assembly election at the hands of Arvind Kejriwal, has come out of the political hibernation to head the Delhi unit of the Congress.
Famous for not mincing her words, the veteran Congress leader believes her party will bounce back to power on its own strength, and is dead against stitching up any pre-poll alliance, ruling out any truck with the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. In an interview to The Pioneer’s Swarn Kumar Anand and Asad, Dikshit said Congress’ prospects are bright as people are growing weary of non-Congress Governments.
For almost three years, you have been away from active politics. Now the Congress has entrusted you with an important task of steering the Delhi unit of the party. How do you feel?
“I am related to Delhi in a very special way. I was educated and brought up here. I have spent my entire political career here. So for me it is a comeback. Whatever I can do for my party and to Delhi, I will be very happy to do it. I didn’t seek it (the Delhi Congress chief post), I got it. And I didn’t reject it; in fact, I welcomed it.”
Now, as head of the Delhi Congress, what future do you envision for the party in the Capital, say after one year, in 2020 Assembly polls?
“You see, the future of the Congress is bright. In Delhi, one of the competitors is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). But it is a small party, and it has won just by making false promises to the people: free power, free water, etc. We have lost two elections to them. But I am certain that the Congress will make a comeback in Delhi, because even now people still remember 15 years of the Congress rule. As time goes by, they are remembering it more.”
In the last two Assembly elections in Delhi, the BJP almost retained its vote percentage, but the AAP ate into the Congress’ votes, and dented its prospects. But recently, speculation about alliance with the AAP has been doing the rounds. And in fact, this is one of the covert reasons for Ajay Maken’s resignation from State unit chief post. What is your take on alliance?
“I am not for any kind of alliance with the AAP at all. As a party we have lost one or two elections. But it doesn’t matter; as recently we won four elections and I am sure we will make a comeback. It (Congress) is a traditional old party of the country. We should not be discouraged by defeats by the AAP. We will pick up momentum on our own, without any alliance.”
Despite opinion polls giving the Congress a good chance in UP Assembly elections, you refused to accept CM candidature. Did you see the writing on wall that the party will not do well?
“It was not about seeing the writing on the wall. I had taken a time out from active politics as I was the Governor of Kerala, and when I came back from there (to UP) I thought it was not the right time for me to enter active politics. It was party’s decision to send me there. Yes, there was some assumption that the party will project me as CM candidate, but once they decided to go for alliance with the SP, I bowed down to that. We were doing good on our own, but the collective will of the party had to be honoured.”
What makes you so confident that voters will again support the Congress? What is your plan?
“We are going to come out with a policy, an all India policy. The immediate target is the Lok Sabha polls, not the city election. Right now, I am very enthused with the fact that people are showing confidence in the Congress. I have seen it in the last two days as there has been long queues here (her residence). This shows that people are again turning back to the Congress as they don’t have good experience with non-Congress Governments.”
Now back in the saddle in Delhi, how will you strengthen the Congress and energise party workers?
“The Congress is already energised. I have full confidence in the fact that in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, we will do much better. The Congress is a big party and its work is known to the people.”
As you are against any alliance with the AAP, will the Congress fight all 7 LS seats in Delhi. Is there any hope for alliance talks?
“No, there are no such talks. I, personally and as a politician, feel there should be no alliance. The Congress will win on its own.”
It is reported that the city unit of the Congress is afflicted with infighting. How do you plan to address this issue?
“Have you seen any party which doesn’t have infighting? It is something natural. What you are calling infighting is actually a difference of opinion. People express their opinion in a way it looks like infighting. But it doesn’t frighten me. It has always been the Congress’ tradition to allow people to express free opinion. I will take everybody on board.”