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The life and times of Sheila Dikshit, in her own words

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Sheila Dikshit remains the only woman chief minister to have won three successive elections, and she has been widely hailed as a good chief minister who ushered Delhi into the 21st century. Despite this achievement, her political career didn’t end on a happy note, mirroring the decline of the Congress party. As Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, her stint as Governor of Kerala was cut short.

Early last year, Sheila Dikshit published her autobiography, Citizen Delhi: My Times, My Life, setting the record straight about her life and times.

“One day I received a phone call,” she writes, “that had the power to change my life’s trajectory completely. The call was from Rajiv Gandhi telling me that he wanted me to contest from Uttar Pradesh in the coming elections.”

She fought and won from Kannauj in 1984. This phone call was no accident though. Rajiv Gandhi knew Sheila Dikshit through her father-in-law, the stalwart Uma Shankar Dikshit. He was a freedom fighter who worked closely with all members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, from Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi.

Also read: Sheila Dikshit always loved a challenge — even when Delhi’s young voters replaced her with AAP

Indira Gandhi sent Rajiv Gandhi to Uma Shankar Dikshit to learn about the history of the party. “The first time Rajiv came home, he noticed Dr Spock’s book on childcare on the shelf and remarked upon it,” Sheila Dikshit recalled. “When I said I had brought up my children on Dr Spock’s wisdom, he said, ‘We did the same.’”

One day in 1969, Indira Gandhi asked Uma Shankar Dikshit to make sure that V.V. Giri was elected President of India, as opposed to the candidate supported by the rival Congress ‘Syndicate’. This task involved so much work that he needed secretarial help. His son Vinod was a bureaucrat and stayed away from politics. It fell upon the daughter-in-law to help. That is how Sheila Dikshit became a politician.

After that first election in 1984, she lost a string of Lok Sabha elections. She was out in the cold in the P.V. Narasimha Rao years. She writes of Rao: “Our communication never really extended beyond pleasantries. That state of affairs continued even after he became the Prime........

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