The Congress has named former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, 78, as its chief-ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh where Assembly elections are due within a year.
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi made the announcement at the party headquarters in New Delhi. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad dismissed the important of corruption allegations against Dikshit, saying that graft allegations have also been hurled at the Bharatiya Janata Paty’s chief ministers in several states.
She has been selected for her experience and good performance, Azad said.
It may be recalled that the Congress generally avoids announcing its chief-ministerial candidates in poll-bound states. But it chose to make an exception in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in the country. The choice was reportedly made at the behest of Prashant Kishor, the political strategist who played a key role in the victories of Narendra Modi in 2014 and Nitish Kumar in 2015. At present, Kishor is advising the Congress in its electoral battles.
Though Dikshit hails from a Khatri family of Punjab, her father-in-law was a prominent Brahmin leader, Uma Shankar Dikshit, from Uttar Pradesh. A Congress stalwart, he served as a Union minister and governor.
In a way, the Congress has reverted to its old strategy, which was oriented around the Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit combine. Brahmins comprise almost one-tenth of the state’s population. It is also trying to attract sections of Muslims and Dalits. If that happens, the grand old party may perform well in the state, though its coming to power in Lucknow is very unlikely.
This was the reason that Dikshit was reluctant to become the chief-ministerial candidate. At any rate, her candidature is very unusual. There is hardly any precedent of a former governor returning to active politics and fighting for the post of chief minister.