‘Maken is misleading people. He never asked me to campaign...’

The Asian Age.  | sanjay kaw

Opinion, Interview of the Week

Lovely’s decision to join the BJP definitely created a dent in the party’s votebank in East Delhi, says Sheila Dikshit.

Sheila Dikshit (Photo: Sondeep Shankar)

Sheila Dikshit, three-time Delhi chief minister, says that it was high time the Congress Party introspects and makes course corrections for better results in future elections. In an interview with Sanjay Kaw, she said the most worrying thing was that the party has lost the connect with people.

Your take on the Municipal Corporation of Delhi election results.
The civic poll results are very disappointing. We lost heavily. We also lost security deposits in 92 municipal wards. Though we were not expecting to sweep all three municipal bodies, but the outcomes of the polls are very scary.

Why did the Congress perform so badly?
I was told that the candidates were selected scientifically after taking proper feedback from our workers. But the most important thing is how you reach out to people. That’s where we failed. We were not aggressive enough to expose the BJP’s 10-year failure in the three municipal bodies.

Do you think Arvinder Singh Lovely’s, Amit Malik’s and Barkha Singh’s decision to quit the Congress to join the BJP just before the polls contributed to the party’s humiliating defeat?
Lovely’s decision to join the BJP definitely created a dent in the party’s votebank in East Delhi. If a young person, that too a former minister, is quitting the party that is bound to make some difference. Also, Barkha Singh’s leaving the party and criticising the leadership did send wrong signals before the elections. The decision of the three to join the BJP did create some negative impact on the party’s performance in civic elections.

There’s a view that the vote share of the Congress has gone up from nine per cent in 2015 Assembly elections to 21.09 per cent in the municipal polls.
Anyone is free to console himself or herself by these figures. But the moot point is that political parties contest elections to come to power. Had we won, then increase in vote share would have been of some importance to us.

Why is your party losing one election after another?
We are going through crisis of identification with people. After Independence, it was the Congress party that made today’s India. The BJP is gaining just by using its marketing skills. It is high time that we introspect to see how we can improve. The phase of the Congress losing and the BJP winning elections will definitely come to an end.

Do you think lack of leadership at the top is responsible for party’s successive defeats?
Not at all! You have pradesh committees for local elections. Their heads are responsible for defeats in Assembly and civic elections. It is true that decisions are taken in consultation with the party high command, but these heads carry out the day-to-day activities.

You were projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate before the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Just before the polls, it entered into an alliance with the Samajwadi Party and the poll results were disastrous for both the alliance partners. Your thoughts?
This is a very legitimate question. What’s gone is gone. We need to look forward. What is more important is what we will be doing next to win the Lok Sabha elections in UP.

You tell me, what the Congress should do next?
We need to seriously introspect. We need to be more critical about the BJP’s policies. And we need to connect with the people.

Do you attribute the BJP’s successive victories to the Modi wave?
There is definitely some kind of a wave. We can’t deny it.

Back to Delhi politics. State party chief Ajay Maken said ever since he took charge of the party’s local unit two years ago, both you and your son, Sandeep Dikshit, who is a two-time MP, have been criticising him. He said he considers you as his mentor and you are like a mother to him. He also said he has never said anything against you and Sandeep.
I think he is trying to mislead people. He never wrote any letter to me to campaign for our candidates. He is in no way my competitor. I was not asked by anybody to campaign in civic elections. They went about highlighting our 15-year good governance model in Delhi, but there was no face of any person who was part of the governance model and overall development of the city.

How you look at UP CM Adityanath Yogi’s model of governance?
He has been there for less than two months. It will unfair to judge him at this juncture. There is no electricity in UP. The roads are in a very bad shape. The quality of education is very bad.

The health infrastructure is in a mess. These are the issues that need to be prioritised. But they are talking about gau raksha and things that have no relevance for a common man.

Do you think, this is high time Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi should take charge of the party?
Yes, he should. He has been vice-president of the party for a long time. Many within the party also want so. This is the right time when he can give new direction to the party. He can bring in a new way of thinking to run the party affairs. Also, he can infuse fresh energy in our cadres.

In your first ever interview after talking over as the Delhi Congress president, you had said it was very important for any party’s survival to remain connected with the workers at the grassroots level.
That’s precisely the problem we are facing today. We have lost the connect with people. We need to reconnect with them. We also have to bring in policies, regardless of caste, colour and creed, which will directly connect us with the masses. It was Indira Gandhi who brought in Green and White revolutions, which were the requirements of that era. We need to ask the BJP, where are two crores jobs? Has the government deposited `15 lakhs in each citizen’s bank account?

As CM of Delhi, in your first interview, in 1998, you had said it’s very important for any effective government to involve citizens in its day-today governance. Is chief minister Arvind Kejriwal following this mode of governance?
Not at all! He has started some mohalla committees. I do not know what these committees are doing.

Your take on Mr Kejriwal’s performance.
It is for everyone to see how Mr Kejriwal is performing. He could not get even a single seat in Goa. He lost badly in Punjab. His popularity has drastically dipped in Delhi. He has failed because he is a dramatist. And he just wants to break old rules. Now, people have realised that he has not delivered on his promises. He was always busy outside Delhi. He needs to take Delhi seriously.

Do you have any advice for Mr Maken?

Back to elections. Was it the failure of the Opposition to take on the BJP in the local elections?
Yes. No one was happy about the way the MCD was ruled by the BJP during the last 10 years. We see “Swachh Bharat” only in advertisements. But in reality there is filth all across the city. We could have aggressively highlighted this.

Given a chance, would you again lead the Delhi Congress?
Not at all! I was the state unit chief. I was also the chief minister for 15 years. I am happy with all that I have done for the city.