Congress president Rahul Gandhi Thursday weighed in favour of experience and track record, bringing back old war horse and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to head the party’s Delhi unit. She will be assisted by three working presidents: Devender Yadav, Haroon Yusuf and Rajesh Lilothia.
The move comes days after Ajay Maken quit as the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief, citing health reasons. Sources, however, said the constant talk among central leaders about the possibility of an alliance with AAP in Delhi could have played a part in his decision.
Even before the Congress made an official announcement, Maken tweeted and wished Dikshit well for her new stint. “I am confident that under Sheilaji, we will play the role of a strong opposition against (Narendra) Modi and (Arvind) Kejriwal government,” he said.
Announcing her appointment, All India Congress Committee in-charge of Delhi P C Chacko said, “The Congress president and the high command thought the experience of the most senior leader of Delhi should be utilised… An experienced, dynamic junior team will work along with her.”
He reiterated that there would be no tie-up with any other party: “There is no question of any discussion till now about an alliance with any other party. The Congress in Delhi is strong enough to fight on its own. We are fully prepared and ready to face the 2019 elections on our own.”
Earlier this week, Chacko and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh made it clear that the respective state units are not interested in a tie-up with AAP.
While Dikshit’s name had been doing the rounds for the post earlier, senior leaders had said her age would be a factor while taking a decision. “She has overcome her health problems…,” said Chacko.
Reacting to the move, the AAP, in a statement, said: “Appointing state presidents is an internal matter of the Congress. In 2013, Sheila Dikshit was the CM when she lost her own seat to Arvind Kejriwal. Then, the Congress changed two state presidents and got zero seats in the Legislative Assembly and Parliament elections. She was later made CM candidate for UP, which also the Congress lost. Bringing her back means serious deficit of leadership in the Delhi Congress. We wish her good health.”
Taking a dig at AAP, BJP Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari said: “Kejriwal had promised to send Dikshit to jail for corruption, but maybe he gave up the idea thinking she was not active in politics. Now that she has been appointed as Delhi Congress chief, Kejriwalji would definitely send her behind bars in a few days.”