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View: Sheila Dikshit was ambitious but in refined, sophisticated way

When Sonia Gandhi decided to appoint her as CM in 1998, the Delhi Congress stalwarts were far from happy.

TOI Contributor|
Updated: Jul 21, 2019, 11.08 AM IST
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The capital of India owes much to her. Sheila was the fourth longest-serving chief minister in the country.
By: K Natwar Singh

Throughout her long life, Sheila Dikshit was on good terms with herself. This is an exceptional quality. She had a superb political temperament. She was endowed with a refined and upright character.

I knew her intimately for nearly 40 years. I never heard her raise her voice. She never lost her cool. Was she perfect? Did she have shortcomings? She did. I used to, from time to time, tell her: “I do not admire your suffering fools”. She replied, “Natwar, I am a democrat. Fools are not a minority. I cannot treat them with disdain.”

In politics, genuine and reliable and enduring friendships are not common. It is a powergame and a frightfully competitive one. Sheila was ambitious, but in a most refined and sophisticated way.


Her values included love and respect for learning, austerity, charity, fearlessness and a principled code of conduct. No one is born with such values. One has to be a wise individual who can acquire them. Sheila was one among that rare breed.

The capital of India owes much to her. Sheila was the fourth longest-serving chief minister in the country. Jyoti Basu served as CM for 22 years. Naveen Patnaik is in his 19th year. Mohanlal Sukhadia served as Rajasthan CM for 17 years.

In her 15 years at the helm, Sheila made Delhi a more attractive and liveable city. She adored flowers and gardens. She insisted on punctuality and efficiency. Delhi is a city of amazing complexities. A chief minister has to be on the right side of the Prime Minister and the home minister. Without Sheila, we would have no flyovers in Delhi, no Metro.
She was in her 15 years not once touched by a financial or personal scandal. One never heard of tensions in her cabinet. She was treated with motherly respect and sisterly affection.

When I was going through hard times, she held my hand, cheered me up. When she was having her own share of problems, I held her hand and cheered her up. This is what genuine friendship is.

During the early 90s, she, M L Fotedar, K N Singh and I got together on the wrong side of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. He had assured the senior leadership of Congress that he would give up the presidentship of the party once he became PM. He did not keep his word. Thus was born the Tiwari Congress. Arjun Singh and Fotedar, former CM of Rajasthan Shiv Charan Mathur, law minister in Indira’s Cabinet P Shivshankar, Sheila, I and many Congressmen joined the Tiwari Congress. The showdown came at the AICC meeting held at Surajkund in Haryana in March 1993. Tiwari Congress was wound up when Sonia was elected Congress president.

Sheila and I worked very closely in Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust for several years. Sonia Gandhi was the chairperson, I was the vice-president and Sheila was secretary. She did most of the work.

When Sonia Gandhi decided to appoint her as CM in 1998, the Delhi Congress stalwarts were far from happy. “She is not from Delhi, but from UP etc..”, they screamed. To no avail. Sonia Gandhi had no regrets. When I heard that she was contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, I was unhappy and worried. I asked her not to do so. “ Your health is more important.” She responded: “ Natwar I know but the party takes precedence.”

She leaves a void in my life. This void will remain as long as I live. I am 90 years old.

(K Natwar Singh is a former Union minister)

Sheila Dikshit: The longest serving woman chief minister

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Big loss

20 Jul, 2019
Former chief minister of Delhi and senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit passed away in Delhi on Saturday at the age of 81 years. On Saturday morning, she was admitted in a critical condition to Escorts hospital in the capital following cardiac arrest. A multi-disciplinary team of doctors carried out the advanced resuscitative measures. Her condition stabilised temporarily. However, she had another cardiac arrest and despite all the resuscitative efforts, passed away at 3:55pm, hospital said.
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