From college tales to her polite manner of dealing with the public, several anecdotes echoed on the streets of Nizamuddin East on Sunday as the mortal remains of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit were taken from her residence to the All India Congress Committee office at 24, Akbar Road. The final rites were performed at Nigambodh Ghat later in the day.
The three-time CM died Saturday afternoon after she suffered a cardiac arrest. Wrapped in the Tricolour, she was cremated at 2.45 pm with full state honours. As per Dikshit’s wishes, the cremation was done in a CNG machine.
All through Sunday, several leaders, workers and the public poured in to pay homage. BJP veteran LK Advani and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Dikshit’s residence, while Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain were among those who attended the last rites.
Among those standing outside her house was 43-year-old Raj Kishan Singh. Carrying a packet of rose petals in his hand, Singh came to bid adieu to Dikshit who, according to him, was “the most helpful politician” he ever saw.
“I was new to Delhi when I heard about her for the first time in 1999. As the years passed, we kept reading about her work in the newspapers. But in 2002, I went to meet her as my son was unwell and no hospital was ready to admit him. She politely asked about the problem and assured me that my son will soon get treated. In the next one hour, I got a call from a party worker and the next day, my son was admitted to a government hospital. I never met her after that. For us, she was the CM who helped a person without any political backing,” said Singh.
Decorated with jasmine flowers and displaying a smiling photo of Dikshit, the convoy left her Nizamuddin East residence around 11.45 am and reached the AICC office around 12.20 pm. The truck was followed by a tempo, with her daughter Latika, senior Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee and Rohit Manchanda, who was recently appointed as the party spokesperson, sitting in the vehicle.
As the truck slowly entered the gates of the party office, shouts of ‘Sheila ji amar rahe’ rang in the air.
Rajni, who came to get a glimpse of her college senior, said: “Dikshit’s younger sister and I were in the same class. Back then, we were extremely scared of her… Her sister used to scare me saying ‘Rajni chalo, didi aa rahi hai’ and we would then hide behind the pillar. After graduation, we parted ways… I met her again after she had stepped into the politics.”
Deepa Kaul, a former minister in the UP government, was among those who came to pay their respects at the AICC office. “What I remember about her was that she never forgot to say ‘thank you’ to each and every person, sometimes even in writing.”
Top party leaders including former PM Manmohan Singh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath, leaders Raj Babbar, Sachin Pilot, Priyanka Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi paid their respects at the Congress headquarters.
Sonia Gandhi said: “She was a friend… almost like an elder sister. This is a big loss to the Congress party.”
“She used to take care of the responsibilities assigned to her by senior leaders. Going forward, the Delhi unit should continue to walk in her footsteps,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.
To many people, Dikshit was not only a political leader but a motherly figure who helped them in difficult times.
Sitting across the road outside the AICC office, Ruksana Begum from Mukundpur recalled how Dikshit, who she referred to as ‘Aunty’, helped her daughter a few years ago. “Meri beti ka pati usse pareshaan karta tha, Aunty ne bohot madad ki. Unke jaisa koi nahi,” she said.
From there, the body was taken to the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee office at DDU Marg — the city unit that Dikshit was heading at the time of her death. Several local councillors and party workers waited outside, hoping to catch one last glimpse of their chief.
“Her doors were never closed for anyone. I met her for my daughter’s admission through the EWS category and I still remember the smile she had on her face while listening to my problems. It is because of her that my son is now studying in Delhi University,” said Subodh Kumar, a resident of Mukundpur.