Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister For 15 Years, Known For Transforming Delhi

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Sheila Dikshit was a three-time chief minister of Delhi

New Delhi:

Veteran Congress leader Sheila Dikshit died at a Delhi hospital today at the age of 81 after suffering a cardiac arrest. A three-time former Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit was the national capital region's longest-serving chief minister. In a political career spanning more than three decades she also served as Governor of Kerala and a minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government, winning praise for her leadership and governance of the national capital.

The former chief minister of Delhi had been unwell for some time and had travelled to France last year to undergo heart surgery. She also underwent angioplasty in 2012. In its statement, the hospital said it had carried out "advanced resuscitative measures" that led to a temporary stabilisation. However, following another cardiac incident she died at 3.55 pm.

Sheila Dikshit had been appointed as Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president in January, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, after party colleague Ajay Maken stepped down citing ill health. She led the party's campaign in the national capital but could not defeat the BJP, which won all seven seats.

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She contested the polls from the Delhi North East seat against BJP Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari but lost by over 3.6 lakh votes. After the defeat she offered her resignation to then party president Rahul Gandhi, but the offer was declined.

Prior to her return to Delhi politics, she had served as the Congress's chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. However, she withdrew after the party brokered an alliance with the Samajwadi Party, explaining that with the presence of Akhilesh Yadav there could not be two chief ministerial candidates from the alliance.

She also served as the Governor of Kerala in 2014 but resigned after five months following a stand-off with the BJP government over gubernatorial appointments..

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Sheila Dikshit was a close associate of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi

Ms Dikshit, who made her political debut as a parliamentarian from the Kannauj seat in Uttar Pradesh in 1984, shared a strong rapport with the Gandhi family. That relationship helped her become president of the faction-ridden Delhi Congress in May 1998.

Six months later she had turned the party around and led it to victory in assembly elections. A key battleground in that election was the high price of onions. The Congress claimed an impressive 52 of 70 seats and Sheila Dikshit served the first of her three terms as Delhi Chief Minister.

She went on to lead the party to victory in two successive elections, before losing to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in December 2013. She also lost her bid to be elected from the New Delhi constituency in that election, losing to current Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Born on March 31, 1938 in Kapurthala in Punjab, Sheila Dikshit held a graduate degree in History from the University of Delhi. She married the late Vinod Dikshit, a civil service officer, and cut her political teeth serving as an assistant to Uma Shankar Dikshit, her father-in-law and a Uttar Pradesh Congress leader who served as a minister in Indira Gandhi's cabinet.

It was Indira Gandhi who noticed Sheila Dikshit's leadership potential and picked her to be part of a 1984 delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. That same year she also became a Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs in the Rajiv Gandhi government.

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