Tracing the Political Journey of Congress Stalwart Sheila Dikshit

Here are the highlights from the life and political career of Delhi’s longest-serving chief minister. 

2 min read

Video Producer: Debayan Dutta

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

(This story was first published on 20 July 2019. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Sheila Dikshit’s birth anniversary.)

Former Delhi Chief Minister and Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit passed away on Saturday, 20 July, at the age of 81. She was admitted at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute on Friday, in critical state.

Here is a look at the life and political career of the Congress stalwart:

Born on 31 march 1938, in Kapurthala, Punjab, she graduated in MA (Hons) History from Miranda House, Delhi University.

Sheila Dikshit was the daughter-in-law of Umashankar Dikshit, who was considered a giant in Uttar Pradesh politics. Her husband, Vinod, was in the IAS Uttar Pradesh cadre and they spent 10 to 12 years in the state.

The Big Entry

Sheila stepped into the world of politics in the 1984 general election, where she contested on a Congress ticket and won by a big margin from Kannauj.


In an interview with The Hindu, she talked about the decision to stand from Kannauj and how she was hesitant to do so as her father-in-law was an influential political leader in the state. “I told my father-in-law, I can’t do it and he said, ‘No, you have to do it.’ Finally, I chose Kannauj as my constituency which I had never been to before.”

But in 1988, Janata Dal leader Chote Singh Yadav, whom she had defeated in the 1984 elections, won the seat back from Sheila and she never returned to Uttar Pradesh politics.

Leader of Delhi

Sheila Dikshit made a comeback from the back-currents of politics a while later, in 1998, when Sonia Gandhi called and asked her to stand in the East Delhi constituency in the Parliamentary Elections.

Though she lost to BJP’s Lal Bihar Tiwari, Sheila reduced the margin of defeat from the previous years. Subsequently, she became the Chief Minister of Delhi the same year. And Sheila held the Delhi fort for three terms until 2013, when she lost it to Aam Aadmi leader Arvind Kejriwal.

A few months after the defeat, she was appointed the Governor of Kerala, a post from which she resigned in 2014, when the BJP assumed power in the Centre.

Sheila Dikshit served as the Delhi Congress chief, a charge she took over in January 2019 before Lok Sabha polls. She contested elections from North East Delhi, but was defeated by BJP candidate Manoj Tiwari.

Champion of Women’s Rights

She also championed for women's rights and was jailed in August 1990 for leading a movement against the atrocities committed on women. She was instrumental in setting up two of the most successful hostels for working women in Delhi.

She represented India at the UN Commission on Status of Women from 1984-1989.

Sheila Dikshit is survived by her son and her daughter.

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