In Sheila Dikshit’s appointment, Congress chooses old Delhi hands for Lok Sabha poll push

Aiming to revitalise the party cadre and gain its lost political ground in the national capital, the Congress has tried to strike a balance while fixing the leadership of the Delhi unit in choosing an old hand, Sheila Dikshit, and representatives from the Scheduled Caste, Muslim and rural areas in Rajesh Lilothia, Haroon Yusuf and Devender Yadav respectively.

The new leadership takes over at a crucial time when the party will have to face the election to seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi, decide over a rumoured alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party, the outfit which unseated the Congress in 2015 after three consecutive terms in power and reconnect with the voters, especially those in the slums and unauthorised colonies and the Poorvanchali community, who were once the key supporters of the party.

Both AAP and the Congress has so far remained non-committal over an alliance for the general elections this year. While Dikshit told HT that a decision in this regard will be taken by the party high command, PC Chacko, AICC in-charge of Delhi, said the Congress “is fully prepared to face the 2019 elections on its own”.

But political analysts say that an alliance between AAP and Congress is likely to make it difficult for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win all the seven parliamentary seats again. If both the parties contest separately, it would result in a threeway split benefitting the BJP.

Sanjay Kumar, director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said if the Congress forges an alliance with the AAP in Delhi, “it will only further marginalise Congress as it will be difficult for them to explain why they joined hands with AAP in Lok Sabha and is fighting against it in the assembly”.

Kumar also said that the party leadership lacks a Poorvanchali face. “Today, Poorvanchalis plays a decisive role in Delhi politics and the present set of Congress leadership does not have a prominent face representing the community,” said Kumar.

Dikshit takes over from Ajay Maken, during whose tenure several senior Delhi unit leaders had raised questions over the leadership of the party. Maken took over the reins of the party immediately after the 2015 drubbing in which the Congress drew a blank. Though he had resigned in September last year, his resignation was accepted a few days ago.

This is the second time that Dikshit has been appointed the Delhi Congress chief. It was in 1998 when she held the post for a brief duration before being made the chief minister after party’s victory in assembly elections. Though in the winter of her political career, her second coming in state politics has given hope to many, in the party, of a possibility of the party’s revival.

A three-time chief minister, Dikshit tenure has is credited major decisions such as switching the Delhi Transport Corporation’s fleet to Compressed Natural Gas, privatisation of power distribution companies, building of flyovers, and trifurcation of the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi among others.

Yusuf, who has been a minister in Dikshit’s cabinet, says that the new team will tide over all the odds.

“The party has enjoyed the support of all the sections. The team will strengthen the organisation in the city,” said Yusuf.

First Published: Jan 11, 2019 09:43 IST

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