Putting their long-standing differences aside, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken shared the stage and attacked the AAP government, which completed three years in power Wednesday. Asked why this “united front” wasn’t displayed before, Maken took the blame: “Had we been together… we would have won the MCD polls.”
Party leaders, however, said Dikshit and Maken putting aside their differences and presenting a “united front” is a combination of “chance” and “effort”. Dikshit, sidelined since the Congress was reduced to zero seats in the 2015 polls, had last year criticised Maken for the party’s poor performance in the MCD polls.
On Wednesday, a senior Congress leader confirmed: “She is likely to campaign for the party in the upcoming bypolls in 20 constituencies in Delhi. She is first and foremost a party leader.”
Asked about the rift within the party, Maken said, “As Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president, I admit that this is my fault. Had we been together like this, we would have won the MCD elections. I didn’t make this attempt before, and that, I admit, was my mistake.” Although Dikshit avoided answering questions on campaigning for the party or being the face of the party for future polls, she said, “Congress always has one face. How can you ask such a question?”
Speaking first at the press conference, Maken listed out the “failures” of the AAP government in transport, health, education and other sectors. He was followed by Dikshit, who said that AAP had a “government of advertisements” and that its work was “invisible”. “Where I live, they don’t call it AAP government, but the government of advertisements. The most money they spend is on advertisements. People ask, the advertisements are there, but what actually happened? Projects are announced, but these are invisible. Every day they get publicity, but I don’t understand why they get published so much,” she said.
Flanking the two were a number of Delhi Congress’s former heavyweights such as Sajjan Kumar, A K Wali, Haroon Yusuf and Mangat Ram Singhal, who had been synonymous with Delhi’s politics for nearly two decades, but had been virtually invisible since 2013. Party sources said they had a role to play in brokering peace between Dikshit and Maken.
Maken, sources said, met Dikshit at least three times in the past month after the idea of them sharing stage was first floated by party leader Sharmishtha Mukherjee. “She didn’t, at first, agree to meet and wasn’t keen on the idea. Later, after assurances were given that her supporters and her former cabinet would be rehabilitated within the DPCC, she agreed,” said a DPCC office-bearer.