Congress appoints Sheila Dikshit as DPCC chief: Critics say her age will challenge party's relevance in New Delhi

On Thursday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi appointed former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit as the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief, overlooking younger ministers such as Devender Yadav, Haroon Yusuf, Arvinder Singh Lovely and Rajesh Lilotia. Yadav, Yusuf and Lilotia: all of whom have instead been appointed to assist her with her duties.

File image of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. PTI

File image of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. PTI

Congress banks on tried and tested leaders

The Congress appointing Dikshit, one of the longest-serving chief ministers of Delhi, as DPCC president is consistent with its reliance on tried and tested leaders in states. According to reports, Rahul wanted to put an experienced leader at the helm of the national capital, as he did with Rajasthan (Ashok Gehlot) and Madhya Pradesh (Kamal Nath).

However, according to PTI, critics have said that Dikshit's age will pose threat to the Congress' relevance in the national capital, especially since the party failed to win any seats in both the previous Assembly and general elections.

For her part, Dikshi said: "I have no message for BJP or AAP, I just want to say that now, Congress will be revived."

It is also of note that if younger ministers like Yadav, 46, and Lilothia, 49, were chosen in her place, they could play a key role in garnering the support of young voters, who sided with the AAP in 2015, a party leader told Hindustan Times. In the same vein, there is worry that Dikshit's appointment as DPCC chief will not resonate with younger voters, one of Congress' key vote banks.

"I will not comment on it and only time will tell," she told PTI, when questioned about critics pointing fingers at her age.

Alliance with AAP under spotlight

Business Standard quoted sources in the Congress and AAP as saying that the chances of an alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections have increased following Dikshit's appointment. According to NDTV, Dikshit taking the reins is seen as a signal of the party's seriousness about its prospective alliance with the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP.

Dikshit has been in favour of the alliance, unlike her predecessor Maken, who bitterly criticised the AAP over issues of governance and corruption.

However, when asked about the possibility of the alliance, Dikshit said  it was for the top leadership to decide and that she would not question their decision. "I have no opinion just now that I would like to share. Let me get involved and understand the situation from top to downwards and then only I will react to it," she said.

Meanwhile, the AAP said Dikshit's return to politics is suggestive of a serious deficit of leadership in the Delhi Congress. AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj, listed out the Congress' poor performance in the Assembly and municipal corporation elections, even as he maintained that appointing its state president was an internal matter.

"In 2013, Sheila Dikshit was the chief minister when she lost her own seat to Arvind Kejriwal. Then, Congress got zero seats in the 2014 Parliament elections. It then changed two state presidents and even then got zero seats in the legislative Assembly polls in 2015," Hindustan Times quoted him as saying.

"She was later made the chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, which also Congress lost. Bringing her back means a serious leadership deficit in the Delhi Congress. We wish her good health," Bhardwaj said.

Maken congratulates Dikshit

Sheila Dikshit will replace Ajay Maken, a 54-year-old former minister in Dikshit's cabinet, who stepped down as the DPCC president on 4 January after serving as the party unit head for about four years. His resignation sparked rumours that he will be assigned a new central role, and that he may even contest the Lok Sabha election.

Maken congratulated Dikshit on her new role, saying that under her leadership, the Congress will play the role of a powerful Opposition against the governments in the national capital and at the Centre.

According to reports, Maken's resignation — officially on ground of health — could be because of the party's growing inclination to ally with or have a seat-sharing arrangement with AAP.

Maken previously strongly opposed such an alliance, alleging that the Arvind Kejriwal-led party is working with the BJP to make a dent in Congress' vote shareBJP leader Vijender Gupta claimed that Maken stepped down as Delhi Congress president for the same reason.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 16:45:12 IST

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