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Saturday, March 28, 2020

For Sheila Diskhit, personal relations never took back seat: Natwar Singh

From sitting on a ‘dharna’ together against the party chief to long chats across the dining table, former External Affairs minister Natwar Singh reminisces about his time with Sheila Dikshit

Updated: July 21, 2019 3:31:09 am
‘She was not a run-of-the-mill politician. In all the years I have known her, I have never seen her raise her voice or display temper,” says Natwar Singh.

I have known Sheilaji for over 40 years. We were colleagues in the Rajiv Gandhi government and later in the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust. She never abandoned me in difficult times

like other colleagues did, nor did I leave her when she went through the same. It is often said that there are no friends in politics, but in her case personal relations never took the back seat. She was not a run-of-the-mill politician. In all the years I have known her, I have never seen her raise her voice or display temper.

She had come over to our residence even a few days ago; I had advised her to relax as she was not keeping well. But she said she could not say no to the party. I got the impression that she was worried about the state of the Congress. I was horrified by the letters against her by P C Chacko. She did not deserve this; I must also point out that the party did not stop Mr Chacko from doing so either. What was the need to point out that she was not well?

I still remember how four of us — myself, Sheila, K N Singh and M L Fotedar — had a fallout with Narasimha Rao. Mr Rao had given an assurance that he will give up the post of Congress president after he becomes the PM, a promise he didn’t keep. At the 1993 Surajkund AICC session, we sat on a dharna against him. Mr Rao, who got a little rattled, had got a few local toughs stationed there through then Haryana CM Bhajan Lal. We were suspended from the party and joined Congress (Tiwari), floated by N D Tiwari and Arjun Singh. Later, when Soniaji took over, it was dismantled and we went back to the main party’s fold.

Subsequently, her appointment as Congress Delhi chief faced resistance from the inner circle that existed then. She was perceived as an outsider. But she was not only a good organiser, she also learnt the art of administration very quickly. Through flyovers, Metro, creation of jobs, she changed the face of Delhi. Delhi is not an easy place to govern, but she earned respect across the spectrum.

(As told to Sourav Roy Barman)

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