COMMENT : Politics


The art of survival is not lost to her. In June 1998, when Sheila Dikshit was asked to contest the Parliamentary elections from East Delhi on a Congress ticket, the BJP, at least in Delhi, was riding a wave. The party won six of the seven seats in the national capital. Dikshit like many others was vanquished on the political battlefield.

But she didn’t nurse her wounds for long. Within a matter of six months she was fighting fit. In December 1998, she was back in the thick of political life, this time as Chief Minister of Delhi, after leading her party to a convincing win at the state assembly polls.

Ever since, she hasn’t looked back, and is now one of the Congress’ most durable and leading politicians. Her stature just went up, when at the state elections in November 2008, she led her party to another convincing victory (following the ones in 1998, and in 2003), to go on to her third term as Chief Minister. Nobody really had expected things to be that easy in 2008, least of all her own party men. And the opposition was quite sure that it was in with a real chance.

“We are confident that every arrangement for the CWG will be ready on time”
— Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit

Today, although politically secure, she faces another tough test---this time one that concerns the fair name and reputation of the world’s largest city-state of which she is the chief minister. This is the year of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), and the world’s eyes are set on how Emerging India’s capital city is preparing to host the October mega-event.

Events like the CWG provide an opportunity to rebuild a city. They provide opportunities to revisit areas that could revive old glory, and dust off the cobwebs from the forgotten by-lanes of history. But everything needs to be done within timelines, and deadlines. It isn’t easy, because multiple agencies are involved, and ultimately everything must fall in place seamlessly. The last time Delhi had a boom in construction of flyovers, stadiums, games complexes and wide roads, it was 28 long years ago. The city was hosting Asiad 1982. At the time every detail was being monitored personally by the late Rajiv Gandhi (Dikshit was to serve as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office when Gandhi became PM two years later, following the assassination of his mother). As a witness to the spree of activities in those days, one can say that Delhi had undoubtedly gained immensely from the event.

Even now it is bound to. But try saying that to journalists! Sitting among a motley bunch of scribes in the plush Delhi Government secretariat in late December, one was privy to some sharp comments on Delhi’s preparations for the CWG. One senior journalist said that most of the in-stadia works were lagging very badly behind time schedules. Attributing off-the-record quotes to officials in the administration concerned directly with implementation of CWG projects, the journalists said that preparedness levelsranged between 30 to 60 per cent, in most cases around 40. Most of them appeared quite sure that projects would not be completed on time. In fact they were quite ready to go with stories for their newspapers along those lines.

If the assessments of those journalists are even faintly correct, then Delhi might just cut a sorry figure. But then Dikshit has this habit of pulling things off when everybody else around could be nervous. She’s monitoring every single piece of Games-related activity on a daily basis. There is frenzied coordination among the departments of her Government and central Government organizations such as the DDA and SAI. In the end, when the CWG are over, she could be having the last laugh. For her it is a time to further her ever-growing reputation.

Low floor Buses
Sports venues


January 2010

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