The Congress is Capable of Winning it Alone: Sheila Dikshit

In December 2013, Sheila Dikshit’s 15-year-old Congress government in Delhi lost an election, winning a meagre eight seats in the 70-member house. Dikshit herself lost to AAP challenger Arvind Kejriwal. In two successive polls-to the 2014 Lok Sabha and the 2015 state assembly-the Congress drew a blank in the capital. As the party looks for a revival in the 2019 general election, the octogenarian ex-CM has been brought back to head the party in Delhi. Dikshit spoke to Kaushik Deka on the party’s prospects and a range of issues:

Q. Will the Congress contest all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi?

Of course, we’re the Congress party. We didn’t come up two years ago; we have a long tradition.

Q. Why are you opposed to an alliance with AAP? Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been talking of a united opposition fighting against the BJP.

Every state has a different political situation. What may work for West Bengal may not work for Tamil Nadu. In Delhi, we are confident of going it alone.

Q. How will you convince Delhi voters to vote for the Congress?

We will remind them of the Congress’ history of performance. The Congress brought the metro, new buses, the roads became wider, flyovers were built. What have AAP, which is running the Delhi government, and the BJP, which controls the municipal corporations, done? They have even failed to maintain what we’d built.

Q. But the AAP government claims it has improved government schools and made healthcare accessible to poor.

It’s just a publicity campaign. Why don’t they give out the number of students who enrol and graduate? They have probably done some white-washing of the school buildings. Have they built a new school or hospital? They have just wasted public money on advertising.

Q. The Congress has fallen back on you even though you were voted out in an anti-incumbency wave. Does this show a leadership vacuum in the party?

The anti-incumbency came after 15 years. The people of Delhi have now experienced governments by both AAP and the Congress. Have the people got the free water and power promised to them? AAP has even failed to do basic work, such as maintenance of roads.

Q. You have less than 100 days to script a turnaround for the Congress…

When I became CM for the first time, I had less than six months to study the politics of Delhi, but still our party managed to win. I’m not particularly worried about the time left. If I was worried, I would not have taken the job.

Q. You had said the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh could lead to instability. Now there is a buzz that the Congress could join the alliance.

I have great faith in the Congress party. I have seen the time when Indira Gandhi lost. She made a dramatic comeback. Did she have an alliance with anybody? The Congress is capable of winning it alone. We lose sometimes, but most of the time, we have won.

Q. But the Congress and SP are inching closer.

I’m not sure. Just the other day, we saw Mulayam Singh Yadav praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament.

Q. Mulayam’s son Akhilesh Yadav, who heads the SP, has hinted at an alliance with the Congress.

The father-son duo confuses us. Who does one follow? I cannot predict what will happen eventually but at the moment the Congress is confident of fighting it alone, especially with the presence of Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia. That said, things can change. In politics, anything can happen.

Q. AAP has criticised the Supreme Court verdict on the division of power between the Centre and the state government in the capital…

If Kejriwal feels the Supreme Court has done something wrong, he should fight it legally.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *