Delhi polls: Is the Congress manifesto a snub to Sheila Dikshit?
It seems ironic that Congress has started their manifesto by praising the development work done in the past 15 years, but forgot that it was done under Sheila Dikshit’s leadership.
New Delhi: The Congress opting for a populist manifesto in Delhi has not only shown that the party is trying to realign itself to the adverse political reality in the state, but it has also put to rest any influence of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit in the new order. The manifesto talks about development work done over the past decade-and-a half, but the party chose to give her name a miss in the all important document.
When the Congress released its manifesto this Friday, all state leaders were present in a show of solidarity with Campaign Committee chief Ajay Maken and Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely at the forefront along with PC Chacko, in charge of party affairs, but the one person conspicuous by her absence was Sheila Dikshit. The message from the high command seems pretty clear, as the politician who towered over the rest for nearly two decades in Delhi has finally been "rested".
Despite the former chief minister (1998-2013) making it clear that she was not interested in electoral politics, her supporters were hoping she will be given a plum assignment ahead of the upcoming elections. But the party maintains she remains an important personality in their scheme of things. "She is a very senior leader, respected by all of us. She is very much a part of the campaign, you will see in the coming days," said Lovely, Delhi Congress chief.
The manifesto presented by the party was on expected lines, right from concessional passes for Metro to students to free wifi services in public transport. These sops aimed at countering the BJP and the AAP on issues that had cost the party dearly during the 2013 assembly elections - the party could return with only eight MLAs from having a simple majority in the 70-member House in 2008. What was significant was the mention of waiving off pending water bills and a cut in power rates, the party promises to bring down power tariff from Rs 2.80 per unit to Rs 1.50 per unit for consumption up to 200 units per month by providing subsidy. In the past, Sheila Dikshit has consistently maintained a different take on slashing power tariff "it is not the duty of the government to decide the rate at which power can be sold, we have the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to decide that" she would say often.
The decision to go ahead on reducing power tariff also shows the growing clout of the new order under Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Former Union Minister Ajay Maken’s elevation to chairman of the campaign committee for Delhi elections has set the ball rolling for the post Sheila era in Delhi. Contrary to reports of a tiff between Maken and Lovely over who will reign supreme in Delhi Congress, it seems the two have closed ranks to ensure that there is a sense of unity forcing other leaders to fall in line. It was Lovely who proposed Maken’s name to chair the all important Campaign Committee, and the duo ensured there were no hiccups when Lovely opted out of the contest from Gandhi Nagar seat despite his name being announced in the first list earlier.
It seems ironic that Congress has started their manifesto by praising the development work done in the past 15 years, but forgot that it was done under Sheila Dikshit’s leadership. "Where will the money come from to subsidise cheaper rates for power etc? It will have to be borne by the treasury and ultimately the tax payers," says a former Congress aide.
"A look at the manifesto, one knows that it is a direct snub to Sheila Ji," he adds. The 15-year rule has now given way to the 16-page manifesto that has ensured that Dikshit remains as another chapter in Congress’ history books.
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