Three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who passed away on Saturday, is often hailed as the mother of modern Delhi. The Congress veteran also had a 'motherly affection' to Kerala, say her party colleagues in the southern state.
While former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is thankful to Sheila for her generous attitude that made Kerala's prestigious Kochi Metro a reality, leader of opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala remembers her as someone who had a deep affection for the people of Kerala.
Recollecting his years-long association with Sheila, Chandy told Onmanorama that had it not been for her generous attitude and special interest, Kochi Metro would not have been a reality.
“Sheila Dikshit was the Delhi chief minister when we got permission to start the Kochi Metro project. In fact we had gone ahead with the plans and proposal hoping that we could get all help from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and its then chief E Sreedharan. Unfortunately, by the time we got the nod, the Delhi government decided not to avail the services of DMRC for any Metro project outside Delhi. It was a huge setback for us,” Chandy recollects.
Chandy said then he met Sheila at her residence in Delhi three times requesting her to change her government's decision to help Kerala.
“She had a lot of practical difficulty to help us since she had already said no to some other states. Still, she changed the decision and allowed the DMRC to take over Kochi Metro project,” he told Onmanorama on Sunday.
Chandy remembered that Sheila had a warm relationship with Kerala and its people though she served the state as governor only for five months. She was the governor of Kerala from March to August 2014.
Chennithala remembered his three-decade association with Sheila from his days as the president of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) way back in early 1980s. He said he got acquainted with her as the daughter-in-law of former Union minister and AICC treasurer Uma Shankar Dikshit. “She had a motherly affection for me. That relationship got stronger as I became the national president of the Indian Youth Congress, AICC secretary and an MP. She had a special love and affection for the Keralites in Delhi. When I was an MP, whenever I approached her to discuss some issues faced by Delhi Malayalis, she used to find a solution at the earliest,” he said.
Chennithala said it was coincidental that her last visit to Kerala was as an AICC observer when he was elected the leader of the opposition on May 29, 2016.
Former Kerala minister and Congress leader K C Joseph shared a memory that dates back to 1970s when Sheila was yet to take a plunge into active politics. It is related to the NSUI's first meet in Mumbai. “I was the NSUI general secretary then and Vayalar Ravi the AICC leader in charge of the student union. Vayalar Ravi assigned me to collect some funds from the AICC treasurer for the meet. Sheila Dikshit's father-in-law Uma Shankar Dikshit was the AICC treasurer that time. I went to his house and had to collect the amount from Sheila Dikshit. It was approximately Rs 10,000,” he said.
Joseph said Sheila later played important roles in resolving the organisational issues in Kerala's Congress unit.
AICC secretary Sreenivasan Krishnan, who spent years in Delhi and had several interactions with Sheila, remembers her for her matured and noble behaviour. “Delhi's first wave of development happened along with the 1982 Asiad. Then there was not much progress. It was during Dikshit's tenure as chief minister Delhi witnessed its second round of development,” he said. He said she had a good rapport with former Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran.
Sheila is widely credited for Delhi's growing infrastructure, including roads and flyovers, better public transport system - especially the Delhi Metro, as well as development on the health and educational fronts during her tenure. She died the president of the Delhi's Congress unit.