Nirbhaya incident forced unwell Sheila Dikshit to junk resignation plan

Nirbhaya incident forced unwell Sheila Dikshit to junk resignation plan
Sheila Dikshit
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New Delhi: In the winter of 2012, Sheila Dikshit underwent her second angioplasty and her family wanted her to quit politics but then the horrific December 16 gang rape took place and she made up her mind not to "run away from the battlefield".

After she complained of fatigue and bouts of breathlessness, doctors confirmed a 90 per cent blockage in her right coronary artery, and she underwent the procedure.

"My family told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to put health concerns before everything else. My decision to resign was almost certain. Moreover, with a year to go for the assembly election, the party had enough time to find an alternative," Dikshit wrote in her autobiography "Citizen Delhi: My Times, My Life" published last year.

But as she slowly recovered her strength and prepared to inform the high command of her decision to step down, the country was shaken to the core on December 16, 2012, as the young woman - later named Nirbhaya by the media - was brutally raped by a gang of men in a moving bus.

"After the Nirbhaya incident, I was in a bind. My family, which had seen my distress throughout that period, urged me to step down as planned earlier, but I felt that such a move would be seen as running away from the battlefield. The Centre had not wanted the blame to fall on it directly; and I, knowing well that our government would be blamed by the opposition, decided to take it on the chin. Someone had to take the blame," she wrote.

The incident "pierced" Dikshit's heart. "I immediately called up senior officials in the Delhi government as well as police officers to get a sense of the situation.

She also went to Jantar Mantar to show her solidarity with the people who had gathered there, even though her officials had warned her that she might not be welcomed.

"When I reached Jantar Mantar, I sensed some resistance to my presence, but no one abused me or tried to block my passage as I lit a candle for Nirbhaya."

Dikshit also wrote in her memoir, published by Bloomsbury, about her three terms in office, the changes she brought about in Delhi, the difficulties she faced and the electoral loss in 2013, among other things.

"Our party was defeated in unambiguous terms," she wrote about the Congress's loss to AAP in 2013.

"I myself was defeated by a margin of over 25,000 votes, losing the prestigious New Delhi seat to Arvind Kejriwal of AAP, a party that many of us had underestimated." According to her, there were many who attributed the loss to public anger against the central government as the Delhi government was often identified with the UPA II simply because it was a Congress-led government.

"There was one more factor, I feel. A considerable chunk of voters who were casting their ballot for the first time, had not seen the Delhi of 15 years ago. To them a Delhi with regular power, flyovers and Metro rail, as well as several new universities, was their natural right and therefore taken for granted. They could not be expected to feel ecstatic about it," she wrote.

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