By naming former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as the chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, the Congress has proved its myopic political vision. In the process, the party has left its cadre completely confused.
Two days prior to Dikshit’s announcement, the party had named Raj Babbar as UP Congress president and his appointment had mobilised cadres to a considerable extent, but the mood flopped back when Dikshit’s name was confirmed.
In a state that has 65% young voters, Shiela Dikshit, who is well in her 70s, seems like a complete misfit, more so when pitted against the likes of Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati.Besides, the recent taint in the water tank scam is unlikely to get washed off soon and will be more than visible in the upcoming Assembly election campaign. The Aam Aadmi Party has already declared that it will campaign against Dikshit.
Hours after her named was announced in Delhi as the party’s UP chief ministerial candidate, Congressmen at the party’s state headquarters in Lucknow seemed completely flummoxed. When was the last time she visited the party office here? Has she ever come here after 1989 (Dikshit was MP from Kannauj from 1984 to 1989)? Does she even know the party workers in the state? — were some of the questions tossed around. A senior party leader advised his colleagues to get their identity cards ready so that Dikshit did not confuse their names and positions.
While none of the Congressmen question Dikshit’s abilities as an administrator, the things that go against her are her age and prolonged absence from state politics. Unlike leaders like Raj Babbar and Rajiv Shukla, who have kept in touch with state leaders and workers, Dikshit has never done so. Sources in the party claim that while Raj Babbar as UP Congress president was Rahul Gandhi’s choice, Dikshit has been thrust upon them on the insistence of Sonia Gandhi. “What has happened in the past few days is an obvious ‘please-all effort’, but when you are fighting a do-or-die battle, you do not choose soldiers to please people. For instance, the coordination committee formed under the leadership of Pramod Tiwari, comprises leaders who do not see eye-to eye and most of the time of the panel will obviously be spent in coordinating between members,” said a senior party leader. The BJP, for obvious reasons, is pleased with the developments in the Congress. Asked whether Shiela Dikshit would pose a challenge to the BJP, party spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, “I think she will be a bigger challenge for her own party than for us. We have a young, energetic team of leaders, but Dikshit’s projection proves that the Congress does not have a young leadership and also that the UP Congress does not have any leaders left so they have to import these leaders.”