New Delhi: Three-time Delhi chief minister and Congress stalwart Sheila Dikshit, who gave the national capital its modern look, passed away Saturday afternoon at a private hospital here after suffering cardiac arrest. She was 81.
Sheila breathed her last at 3.55 pm at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, doctors said. She was brought to the hospital Saturday morning in a “critical condition with cardiac arrest,” a Fortis Escorts statement said. It said a multi-disciplinary team of doctors carried out advanced resuscitative measures and her condition stabilised temporarily, but had another cardiac arrest.
“Despite all the resuscitative efforts, passed away at 3:55 pm on July 20, 2019,” the hospital said. Her body has been kept at her Nizamuddin East residence, where politicians cutting across party lines, visited to pay their last respects.
The Delhi government declared a two-day mourning in the national capital as a mark of respect for the former chief minister. She will be accorded a state funeral on Sunday at the Nigambodh ghat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited her residence and was accompanied by Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and several other leaders visited her residence, besides BJP’s Vijay Goel and CPI(M) leaders Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat, to pay their last respects.
Condolences poured in from various quarters after her demise, with President Ram Nath Kovind and Modi recalling the “momentous transformation” of the national capital during her tenure. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu termed her a good administrator. Modi said she made a noteworthy contribution to Delhi’s development. “Deeply saddened by the demise of Sheila Dikshit Ji. Blessed with a warm and affable personality, she made a noteworthy contribution to Delhi’s development,” he tweeted.
Sheila was president of Delhi Congress and had served as Delhi’s chief minister for 15 years from 1998-2013. As the longest serving woman chief minister who steered her party to victory for three consecutive terms in 1998, 2003 and 2008, Sheila ushered in an era of all-round development that transformed Delhi into a world class capital. She also initiated green reforms in public transport sector successfully accomplishing the shift from polluting vehicles to a CNG based fleet.
Known as a warm and affable politician, Sheila carried out massive infrastructure development of Delhi during her tenure. She also launched a number of social welfare schemes with involvement of resident welfare associations as part of her participatory model of governance. Born in Kapurthala in Punjab to a non-political family in 1938, Sheila did her schooling from Convent of Jesus and Mary School in the capital and graduated from Miranda House, University of Delhi. She got married in July 1962 to bureaucrat Vinod Dikshit, whose father Uma Shankar Dikshit was a loyalist of Jawaharlal Nehru and served as a minister in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet in 1971 and later became Governor of Karnataka and West Bengal.
An able administrator, Sheila could get along well with politicians from all parties for which she drew widespread respect. She unsuccessfully fought the recent Lok Sabha elections from the North-East Delhi constituency. She represented New Delhi constituency in Delhi Vidhan Sabha.
Sheila became an MP for the first time from Kannauj Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh in 1984. She was also a close associate of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and a minister in his cabinet. She also served as governor of Kerala. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Congress leaders Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were among those who condoled her death.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the people of Delhi had a deep affection for her and that is why she holds the distinction of being the only woman chief minister in India who has led her party to three consecutive victories in Assembly elections.
“In her death our country has lost a great administrator and an outstanding leader who contributed enormously to all-round development of Delhi,” Singh said in a letter to Sandeep Dikshit. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he was devastated to hear the news. He called her a “beloved daughter of the Congress Party, with whom I shared a close personal bond.” He said she served “selflessly as a three-term chief minister.”
Kejriwal said Sheila‘s death is a huge loss for Delhi and her contribution will always be remembered. Veteran BJP leader L K Advani described her as an able administrator who made immense contribution to the development of Delhi.
“Apart from many other achievements in her long career in public life, Sheila-ji will be remembered as a fine human being,” Advani said. BJP’s Vijay Goel said he had family relations with her and used to meet and have political discussions. “She could win her rivals with her smile.”
Yechury said millions of people benefitted from the contribution she made to the development of Delhi. “Even when illness struck her, she continued to fight.” Karat termed her a politician marked by complete modesty and total lack of pride and arrogance.