Sheila Dikshit’s name as the CM face of the party in UP was suggested by election strategist Prashant Kishor, who believes projecting a Brahmin would help the party win back the support of the Brahmins in the state.
Ending weeks of speculation, the Congress on Thursday declared veteran leader and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
The 78-year-old leader, who has been chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms, is the daughter-in-law of the late Uma Shankar Dikshit, who was one of the tallest leaders of the state.
According to sources, Dikshit’s name as the CM face of the party in UP was suggested by election strategist Prashant Kishor, who believes projecting a Brahmin would help the party win back the support of the Brahmins in the state, who had been traditionally supporting the Congress.
It is also felt that Dikshit, with her track record for development in Delhi and her image as an able administrator, would find favour with those who want progress in UP. However, the announcement has come after intense discussion within the party about the pros and cons of naming her as the CM candidate.
It was debated whether her age would work against her at a time when the party wants to win the support of the young voter, and also whether the memories of corruption in the preparation for the Commonwealth Games, when she was in power, and which is seen as a major reason for her defeat in Delhi in 2014, would act as a spoiler.
Interestingly, Dikshit’s name was announced for the crucial assignment by AICC General Secretary in-charge of the state Ghulam Nabi Azad in Delhi on a day she was sent a notice by the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Delhi to appear before it in connection with the alleged scam in renting of water tankers by the Delhi Jal Board during her tenure.
The party and Dikshit herself have termed the ACB action politically motivated and questioned its timing
Dismissing the allegations and rejecting the idea that they could hamper Dikshit’s campaign and the party’s prospects, Azad said, “These are merely allegations fanned by two governments—the Centre and the Delhi government—as they are vengeful. They are doing it to stop her from telling people about the good work that she has done in Delhi.”
This is perhaps the second time that the Congress has announced a CM candidate for an election. The only other instance was the announcement of the name of Captain Amarinder Singh as the CM face on the eve of the previous Assembly election in Punjab.
A few days ago, Congress appointed actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar as the chief of UP Congress and also named four vice presidents. In a second tranche of announcements with regard to UP, the party on Thursday named the campaign committee and the coordination committee for the elections.
The campaign committee will be headed by Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, its convenor will be Zafar Ali Naqvi, and it comprises four vice chairmen—Jitin Prasada, Abdul Mannan Ansari, Dayaram Anuragi and Chaudhary Bijender Singh. The coordination committee will have Pramod Tiwari as its chairman and its members are Mohsina Kidwai, Salman Khurshid, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Rajiv Shukla, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Salim Sherwani, Pradeep Jain, P.L. Punia, Nirmal Khatri and Pradeep Mathur.
The party, however, continued to be silent on the intense speculation about Priyanka Gandhi playing a major role in the campaign, and holding rallies outside the family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli.