Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is not averse to returning to active politics if her party asks her because the time is ripe for the Congress to bounce back as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s credibility has hit “rock bottom” due to the “all-talk, no-action” politics of the BJP government.
But the 80-year-old Congress politician does “not have the confidence” to say if her party can beat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) riding a Modi wave in the 2019 general election.
“I don’t have the confidence to give you the answer on this. The Congress knows it well; its leader (President Rahul Gandhi) knows it well. Rahul is doing as much as he can and as much as is possible,” Dikshit told IANS in reply to a question on the Congress’ chances in the next Lok Sabha elections.
She, however, said if the Congress talked about real issues and didn’t get lured by the BJP’s Hindutva agenda, it can stage a comeback.
“We have to talk about issues, the aspirations of people that the Modi government has failed to address, failed to meet. People are suffering because of rising prices, people find it difficult to buy fuel, there are no jobs, India’s growth is declining… These should be our political planks.
“We have to scrutinise the promises made by the BJP and seek answers from Prime Minister Modi on why he has failed to keep them.”
She said BJP’s Hindutva narrative may no longer be saleable to the electorate of India because “by now they must have understood that Modi is all talk and no action”.
“Modi’s and the BJP’s credibility has hit rock bottom… it is shaken. The BJP has not delivered on its election promises. Mere foreign visits (by the Prime Minister) don’t bring jobs, don’t bring growth. The country has not progressed. In fact, it is on a regressive path. We will have to counter that,” the three-time Delhi Chief Minister said.
Asked if she was ready to return to active politics after she withdrew her nomination as the Congress’ chief ministerial face in last year’s Uttar Pradesh elections, Dikshit said: “I am ready, but am not seeking any role. I am underlining the word seeking. I am ready to take any role if the party asks me to.”
She said she withdrew from the Uttar Pradesh elections only after the Congress allied with the Samajwadi Party much against her wish.
“There was a mismatch. We fought elections with a slogan ’27 saal UP behaal’ (27 years of Uttar Pradesh’s sorry state). It was a reference to the number of years that the state remained in the hands of non-Congress governments, including the Samajwadi Party. However, the alliance contradicted the slogan and I voluntarily announced that I am stepping down.”
About Delhi politics, she said she won’t mind either returning to the capital where incumbent Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has also failed to keep the promises he made before coming to power.
She, however, regretted how “we underestimated” Kejriwal when he was debutting as a politician in Delhi and thought he won’t make unrealistic promises for contesting elections.
“Kejriwal made promises that he cannot keep because an elected government in Delhi has limited powers. He made promises without understanding the realities of Delhi’s limited statehood and today you see people are realising it. I am not sure if people at the grassroots level have understood it, but I know he (Kejriwal) won’t be able to do much about it.”
Having grown and lived most of her life in Delhi, Dikshit, who is largely credited with transforming the capital during her 15-year rule, said it “of course hurts” to see the city called unsafe for women or the crime capital of India.
She has penned a 175-page autobiography “Citizen Delhi: My Times, My Life” (published by Bloomsbury India), recalling her childhood days cycling around the city in a carefree manner.
“The times were also such that it never occurred to my parents that something could go wrong if we were left largely to our own devices,” she recalls in the book, wishing if only those days of innocence could return and children of Delhi could be safe and carefree.
“Rape was not talked about, at least in our family and in our circle. We didn’t know what it was. In fact, I didn’t know what rape was until after many years of my marriage when I read about it. That was the age of innocence, those were times of innocence,” she said.
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at [email protected])