Sheila Dikshit: Congress' trump card in Uttar Pradesh

Congress has hoisted Sheila Dikshit as the face of the party for the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh.

With analysts having written her off ever since her defeat to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in Assembly election 2013 and a water tanker scam that significantly marred her political legacy, she was sent in exile to Kerala by the Congress high command in 2014 — but in politics it's not over until it's over.

Congress party high command pointed out that Sheila Dikshit was chosen as the chief ministerial candidate for her "good work, and experience". While there can be debate about the former, when it comes to experience, Dikshit has been in the political arena for close to 32 years, including 15 long years as a lawmaker for Delhi.

For good, bad or ugly, Sheila Dikshit is the face of Delhi and that has helped accountability: Reuters

For good, bad or ugly, Sheila Dikshit Congress' candidate for UP: Reuters

However, the big question is: Will the Uttar Pradesh electorate warm up to the idea of Sheila Dikshit or not? According to Sheila Dikshit, "Whether I go to Uttar Pradesh or not, I can't deny that I am the bahu of the state."

Dikshit was married to the son of Uma Shankar Dikshit, one of the stalwarts of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh who was close to Nehru family and was also a central minister. Interestingly her stint in politics started with UP; Congress had swept the 1984 elections riding on the 'Indira wave' and Sheila Dikshit won the Kannauj parliamentary seat.

Her next stint as a law maker was in Delhi. In 1998, she became the Chief Minister of Delhi and for the next 15 years she ruled the NCR with an iron fist. In 2013, when the whole country seemed to be swayed by Narendra Modi's prowess, Dikshit she was defeated by BJP, though Arvind Kejriwal formed the government. This was termed as a debacle in her political career — one that led to her political exile and sent to Kerala to be its Governor. Dikshit had to resign after just five months, but it was her exile away from the capital which proved to be costly for the party. She said,"They didn't want me in Delhi, they faced the results."

In the run-up to the UP 2017 polls, Dikshit garnered support from the Gandhi family along with Prashant Kishor, the chief political strategist for the Uttar Pradesh polls, who the Congress has roped in after observing how he single-handedly changed Mahagatbandhan's fortune in Bihar.

Dikshit's Brahmin lineage could help clinch UP polls

Prashant Kishor had recommended that Dikshit should play a major role in the party's poll campaign in the state as she is a prominent Brahmin face and could help Congress regain support of the electorally sizeable and significant community, whose support determines the poll outcome in several seats.

The community, a traditional vote bank of the Congress, shifted allegiance to BJP in the aftermath of the emergence of Mandir-Mandal politics. A large chunk of Brahmin votes had also gone to Mayawati's BSP in the past when she gave tickets to many candidates belonging to the community.The Brahmin community plays a significant role in election outcome in central and eastern Uttar Pradesh as it is the dominant caste in these areas.

It's not going to be a plain sail for this septuagenarian politician. She's neither a dominant force like Narendra Modi, nor a maverick like Arvind Kejriwal or as willy as Mulayam Singh Yadav but along with the backing of Prashant Kishor and the 'blessings' of the Gandhi family, she could prove to a formidable candidate — she survived her exile and at the fag end of her late 70s, she is looking at one last shot at glory.

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Updated Date: Jul 14, 2016 18:24:26 IST

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