The recent demise of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit marks the end of an era, one that however ceased to exist even some years prior to her death. A consecutive three term over a 15 year period as the face of the Delhi Government, Dikshit has been one of the longest-serving chief ministers of Delhi, and also the longest-serving female chief minister of any Indian state in history.
However, it isn’t just the duration of her reign that is significant in its essence. Even as they say “It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts”, for Dikshit though, it has been as much the years as the life that she encompassed in each of them that holds significance.
For Delhi, Dikshit’s tenure at the apex of affairs turned out to be a winning gamble. Even without a particularly visible presence on the national stage, Sheila Dikshit did wonders to make the national capital of the country as traditionally modern as it has always been, albeit a lot more developed.
Dikshit’s achievements in catapulting Delhi to the higher rungs of the development ladder is more significant in that she isn’t lauded just by her party people. Political adversaries and opponents alike found sense in her vision of development for the city, even if they did not exactly resound her views on other matters.
From 1998 to 2013, Dikshit’s efforts at modernising Delhi had been of a level that put it ahead of other metro cities in the country. At a time when inefficient administration saw many growing cities reduced to shambles of their earlier self, Dikshit ensured that the measures that she put up for the development of Delhi continued to be on going. Whether it be the commencement of the Delhi Metro operations or prioritising the cleaner CNG fuel for public transportation, Dikshit did indeed ensure that Delhi would be setting the precedent when it comes to collective development in the country. Equally notable has been her focus on women empowerment and the boost to collective participation to foster growth of the Delhi community and the city as a whole.
In fact, Dikshit’s thrust on empowering women during her tenure stems from her participation as an Indian representative at the United Nations Commission on the status of women from 1984 to 1989. However, her efforts were most overruled by Delhi’s emerging ‘status’ as being the crime destination and specifically by the shameful Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case that rattled the country back in 2012.
Her image as a CM who relied on development politics for more than a decade to usher a new era into the country’s capital received further setback as reports emerged of irregularities by her government during the Delhi Commonwealth Games and also her alleged involvement in misusing funds sanctioned by the Central Government.
But for someone who had been the force behind the transformation of Delhi- be it on terms of infrastructure or through attempts at reducing pollution- for the major chunk of her political career, the dignity of a politician as versatile as Sheila Dikshit would continue to inspire and motivate legions of young leaders and politicians. For even in faltering at some of the hurdles, Dikshit had been, by a large, a politician of, for and by the people.