From bitter political rivals to those who stood behind her staunchly, political lines and rivalries were blurred and personal equations brought forth at former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s house Saturday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, former union minister Vijay Goel and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari reached her Nizamuddin East home to pay respects after her death.
Dikshit, who was the Delhi CM for 15 years, had been out of power for six years, except for a short stint as Kerala governor in 2014. She worked with the NDA and UPA, with many BJP leaders Sunday calling her a true statesman who went above party lines to ensure Delhi’s development.
Kejriwal, a bitter political foe — AAP made several allegations of corruption against Dikshit during its campaign in 2013 and 2015 — Saturday said he was saddened by Dikshit’s demise: “Delhi will miss her… Even though we were from different parties, she was always affectionate. There will be a vacuum in Delhi politics. Unhone Dilli ke liye achha kaam kia.”
Goel, who was among the first BJP leaders to reach her house, said: “If you ignore the few controversies, she did a lot for the city. One of the most enchanting things about her was her smile. She won over opponents and supporters alike with it. As a statesman, she knew how to get along with everyone; she was very forthright. Whenever some matter important to the state came up, she discussed it with allies and opponents. We met and spoke very frequently and she loved the parathas at my house.”
Dikshit, who was named Delhi Congress chief in January after Ajay Maken stepped down, contested her last election from the North East Delhi constituency in May this year. She was defeated by BJP’s Tiwari.
After his win, Tiwari had met Dikshit at her house. On Saturday, Tiwari reached her house minutes after the PM.
“Sheila ji will always be remembered for the respect she gave to everyone and her work. It is tough to believe she has left us. She treated me like her child. When I met her a few days ago, she reminded me about something Atal ji had told her…. that we are not personal enemies but political opponents. She always believed that. She told me she was pleasantly surprised that political opponents are still carrying forward the tradition of meeting with grace and respect. I felt she was giving me a lesson in constructive politics, but like a mother,” he said.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote: “Deeply saddened by the demise of Sheila Dikshit ji. Blessed with a warm and affable personality, she made a noteworthy contribution to Delhi’s development. Condolences to her family and supporters. Om Shanti.”
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also tweeted about their party leader, with the former saying: “I’m devastated to hear about the passing away of Sheila Dikshit ji, a beloved daughter of the Congress Party, with whom I shared a close personal bond. My condolences to her family and the citizens of Delhi, whom she served selflessly as a 3-term CM, in this time of great grief.”
Priyanka tweeted: “Sheila ji will always be remembered for her years of exemplary governance and immense contribution to the development of Delhi. I will miss her wise counsel, her sweet smile and the warmth with which she would hug me whenever we met.”
Her protege Ajay Maken tweeted: “Hard to believe-My mentor and a mother like figure to me #Sheila Dikshit ji is no more. Delhi can never forget her contribution. I will always remember the way she groomed me as a young politician and granted me valuable learning experience under her guidance.”