New Delhi, March 3: Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s ambition is to make the capital an electronically-run city with open and transparent governance and better and more modern infrastructure, a place “which everybody loves and feels happy in”.
“I want to make Delhi an electronically-run city where things are open and transparent,” Dikshit told IANS in an interview in which she addressed a wide-range of subjects.
Dikshit has been credited with changing the landscape of Delhi by focusing on development and infrastructure and making it a cleaner and greener city, though by her own admission”"much more is needed”.
“I must tell you there is a sense of some sort of comfort that ‘Yes, we have done something’. But I won’t say we are fully satisfied, because there is so much more to do,” Dikshit said in course of the 40-minute interview at her neat office that overlooks a sylvan lake filled with cackling ducks.
Her only wish now is to make Delhi a place “which everybody loves and feels happy in”.
“It should be for everyone,” said Dikshit, who will turn 75 on March 31.
She looks like a matronly aunt or someone’s beloved granny. No one thought she would last this long when she first took the reins as Delhi’s chief minister in 1998. But even after 14 years, Sheila Dikshit is going strong. She has completely silenced her detractors and naysayers and is ready to face the next electoral challenge later this year.
Though she has started addressing political rallies, will she be able to win a fourth consecutive term considering that the anti-incumbency factor could work against her?
“It is presumptuous of me to say so. If God willing, we do come back, we will carry on and take it to a kind of pinnacle. You see already Delhi is being spoken of as a world-class city, but I think there is a lot to do.”
Her position in the Congress party is very strong. Despite several attempts to undermine her by disgruntled colleagues she has come out unscathed and more powerful.
“It does not worry me,” Dikshit said of the infighting and dissidence in her party.
Her clean image, despite the unproven corruption charges in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, her governance style and being the only woman chief ministers to come to power for a third consecutive term have made her a popular choice for campaigning in other poll-bound states.
The Dec 16, 2012 gang-rape and the flash mob protests that gripped the city were a painful episode for her.
“What anguished me was the fact that people were agitated. We were agitated because we found ourselves helpless, and then when I saw that the action taken was not commensurate with the crime that has been committed, that’s when I wrote that just removing a couple of cops here and there won’t help.”
“But I did not ask for the police,” she added, explaining why she had said that the Delhi Police should be under the state and not with the union home ministry.
Despite her hectic schedule, the grandmother of two makes it a point to spend time with her family and friends.
Educated at the Convent of Jesus and Mary and a graduate of Miranda House, Dikshit is a known movie-buff and never misses a chance to catch a movie in a cinema hall.
“The last movie I saw was ‘Lincoln’. I wanted to see ‘Life of Pi’, but I was not well, though I have read the book. I prefer to go out to see movies,” she said.
Her other love is reading books, especially on philosophy and history.
“I never sleep without reading a book,” she said, adding that she gets up at 7.30 a.m. and after having breakfast meets people who come to her 3, Motilal Nehru Marg residence, where she lives alone.
After her meetings, she leaves for office and returns for lunch, takes a power nap of 10-20 minutes and is back again in her office that overlooks a pretty lake, in which ducks can be seen.
Her elegantly decorated office has three prominent photographs, including one of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. She was minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office during Rajiv Gandhi’s time. The other is a photograph of her with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the third is of her grand-daughter Aafia.
(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at email@example.com. Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)