The Claimants of Sheila Dikshit’s Delhi!

Sheila Dikshit

Delhi is the ancient city of India. The city’s history bears testimony to settlements and also to ruins. This order of settling and deserting of the city has been going on since the Mahabharata period. In the medieval period, this city enjoyed eminence as a centre of power and this eminence endured for a long time. It is hardly surprising that the city is a power centre in modern times as well. Delhi is synonymous with power and success so much so that the phrase ‘Delhi is not far away’ has entered common lexicon. The rulers, who made Delhi its power centre, had designed it to suit and facilitate their interest and purpose. Initially the British ruled India from Calcutta. In 1880, they decided to make Shimla the summer capital of India for obvious climatic reasons and constructed several administrative and military buildings along with the grand Vice Regal Lodge by 1888. In 1912, when the decision was made to shift the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, then the British architect Adwin Lutyens was tasked with designing ‘New Delhi’ in order to serve their interest and purpose. As a result, in 1929, the New Delhi came up, which till date is called Lutyens’ Delhi. The newly constructed Lutyens’ Delhi was inaugurated in 1931 and with this the glow of the Delhi of Mughals started fading. After the Independence, Lutyens’ Delhi remained the centre of India’s power because the new rulers of independent India did not endorse the Gandhian concept of power and governance.

Although numerous construction activities have been taking place since the formation of the Lutyens’ Delhi but till the end of the 20th century there was no major change in its original structure except gradual expansion of the city. For the first time, Sheila Dikshit, who was Chief Minister of Delhi for 15 years from 1998 to 2013, started a new design of Delhi’s development and began to execute it. The Delhi around us today could rightly be called Sheila Dikshit’s Delhi. ‘Let’s not break the thread of development’ – had been the slogan of Sheila Dikshit during the elections. Here it becomes pertinent to mention my outright opposition to the model of development propagated by Sheila Dikshit. I am also totally against her policy of transferring the civic services from the government hands to the private hands, even a partial transfer. Like most of the present-day leaders of the country, her perspective of governance is not based on Directives of the Constitution of India, but on the dictates of the World Bank and its allied institutions. It is hard for any Indian citizen to agree with her perspective. But Sheila Dikshit did rule Delhi and the hearts of Delhites for 15 years only on the basis of her model of development and administration.

Construction, up-gradation and beautification of many destinations including flyovers, underpasses, national highways, multiple/signature bridges, posh farm houses, banquet halls, resorts, motels, hotels, malls, new Delhi Secretariat, Connaught Place, Interstate Bus Terminal, new government houses/offices/business complexes were carried out by dismantling the old government quarters in Sarojini Nagar and Kidwai Nagar areas and the network of Delhi Metro which kept emerging from underground to the top like a miracle – all were visualized and started/built during the tenure of Sheila Dikshit. The construction work involving the Commonwealth Games, in which she was heavily accused of corruption, was also held during Sheila Dikshit’s tenure.

Apart from these ventures, several new colleges of Delhi University were opened. The University of Engineering and Technology (DTU), which happened to be under the Delhi University, was given the State University status and a separate campus. Vardhman Medical College, affiliated to the Safdarjung Hospital was also opened during her tenure. Two new state universities – Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha and Dr. BR Ambedkar – were also commenced by her. Although the concept of the National Capital Region (NCR) had already been in vogue in some form or the other, it attained recognition and importance only during the tenure of Sheila Dikshit. It can probably be said that Delhi started getting populated in record numbers during the reign of Sheila Dikshit as unprecedented number of people entered Delhi and got settled in areas of Delhi and NCR. All these works of gigantic scale have changed the face of Delhi forever. Leave aside people coming out of Delhi, the original residents themselves started dizzying because of the new structure of Delhi!

The current ‘honest’ prime minister at the Centre and the current ‘honest’ chief minister at the State had each come to power by protesting against the politics of ‘Congress culture’. But it is interesting to see that both of them have been in constant tug of war ever since to lay their claim on that very legacy of the Congress! A recent example can be seen in this regard. The Wazirabad Signature Bridge, which is called Delhi’s Eiffel Tower, was inaugurated in the first week of November last year. At the inauguration venue, a physical fight erupted between the leaders of the parties of Delhi government and the Central government. Each side wanted to take credit for the construction of Signature Bridge, which was decided in 2004 and mostly completed during Sheila Dikshit’s tenure. Some journalists raised the question on the unfortunate and indecent incident of fist fight and pointed to the rightful claim of Sheila Dikshit to inaugurate the Signature Bridge. But she was not even invited to attend the inaugural ceremony by the organisers. The chief minister of Delhi, who is infamous for blindly spending the public money on his publicity, split the whole of Delhi with huge and expensive hoardings placing his photo on them to advertise the inaugural ceremony of the Signature Bridge. Many of these hoardings /billboards have not yet been removed.

Whenever a new phase of the Delhi Metro starts or a completed phase is inaugurated, again there is contestation of claims between both the so-called ‘champions of honesty’. However, in reality, both Central and Delhi governments have utterly failed in contributing towards the proper maintenance of the Delhi that can be attributed to Sheila Dikshit’s projects of rejuvenation. Delhi is grossly ridden with ever increasing problems of garbage, disease, traffic jam and rising crime. But morning after morning one finds new advertisements scattered from newspapers to streets’ walls congratulating the people of Delhi. Modi is doing this at the pan-India level and Kejriwal is doing the same at the level of Delhi. Such a waste of public money to cover up its indolence can hardly be done before by any government or leader, as these two ‘honest’ people of the country are doing. After the unfortunate incident which occurred at Signature Bridge inauguration, Sheila Dikshit rightly quipped that for some publicity is their profession!

With the declaration of 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Delhi Legislative Assembly elections scheduled for next year, both the claimants are placing new bets and devising new tricks to claim Sheila Dikshit’s Delhi. The ensuing fight as to which side did what shows no sign of diminishing with the two claiming for credit. Whereas the reality is a different story altogether. It is a story of a unique partnership between the two. A few examples can be shown to elaborate the point. Ravishankar, a ‘governmental saint’, whose business is to teach ‘art of living’ to middle and upper middle class gentry who are over-fed with the loot of the hard earned money of the working class, in the name of world Culture Fair in 2016 had hugely damaged the already fragile ecology of the Yamuna bank. The report of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) revealed this fact. That huge spectacle was organized jointly by the senior and the junior ‘honest’. There was a road in Delhi namely Aurangzeb Road. Both the ‘honests’ jointly displayed the courage of protecting ‘Hindu culture’ by changing the name of the road. It is often seen that certain impending leaders in Aam Admi Party (AAP) are aptly described by secular journalists and intellectuals as the agents of the RSS. They further emphasize that these elements have been planted there to defame Kejriwal and AAP. But despite the repeated controversies, they remain in the party. Moreover, secular journalists and intellectuals have not expressed any curiosity about the identity of two members of the Rajya Sabha who were sent by AAP from Delhi Assembly. Not even those gentlemen, who themselves were gazing at Kejriwal from the very beginning that he would send them to the Rajya Sabha. May be the gentlemen sent to the Rajya Sabha by Kejriwal are also shared-elements! Perhaps by observing this partnership between the two, one is called senior and another is called junior ‘Modi’!

Recently, Kejriwal said that if Delhi is given full statehood, then he will campaign for BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections. (On the issue of statehood of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit had said that being the country’s capital Delhi cannot be given the same status as other states are given.) The interesting thing is that those who show huge concern about fascism which descends in the country under the leadership of Modi did not question their ‘honest’ leader, asking him how can the fascist Modi be supported just in lieu of fulfilment of a slender demand like full statehood? Even those learned people who joined AAP in a hope to turn Kejriwal a ‘socialist’ and were shabbily shown the way out did not ask this question. These very people would not shy away from attacking other leaders or citizens for their certain statements or decisions labelling them as RSS/BJP supporters. The phase has long gone when the anti-corruption movement which led to the birth of AAP were being associated with the Independence Movement, JP Movement and further described as a second revolution and third revolution by these people!

It would be needless to once again repeat the established fact that the anti-corruption movement and emergence of AAP were accomplished under the auspices of the RSS. That is why all credits, which secular journalists and intellectuals promptly bestow on Kejriwal and AAP alone, is also indirectly given to the RSS itself. I wrote a long time ago that capitalism makes its masses in the streets and homes. By seeing this attitude of India’s intellectuals of secular and socialist camp, it can be said that capitalism also continues to nurture its intellectuals and even its own political parties along with the common masses. After ousting of the socialists, the communists are trying hard to revive their political fortunes by singing odes to please Kejriwal.

Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see how much of Sheila Dikshit’s Delhi would be grabbed by the claimants? And how far Sheila Dikshit herself would be able to win her Delhi again! The cycle of Congress politics in Delhi went in such a way that she is the president of the Delhi Congress during this election times. There is one more thing to note in this war of claimants over Delhi. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), whose vote percentage in Delhi had reached to the mark of 14 at one time, emerged as the third claimant of Delhi apart from the Congress-BJP. This challenge of the BSP had been thwarted by the common contenders in the last election. Now the BSP’s vote share has been reduced to only 5 percent.

Dr. Prem Singh, Dept. of Hindi, University of Delhi


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