Sheila Dikshit is Congress' UP chief minister candidate

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. File photo  

Ahead of next year’s Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress on Thursday named Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate. She will be up against Akhilesh Yadav of the SP and Mayawati of the BSP. The BJP is yet to name a CM candidate. The announcement is a departure from the Congress’s past and comes at the behest of poll strategist Prashant Kishore.

Party sources say Mr. Kishore had not just recommended a Brahmin face (to secure the support of this influential community), but had said that he worked best when he could plan a campaign around a personality, as he had done with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in 2015. And as he doing now for the Congress in Punjab with Captain Amarinder Singh.

Mr. Kishore’s first choice for U.P., of course, had been one of the Gandhi siblings, Rahul or Priyanka.

Announcing Ms Dikshit’s name, Congress general secretary in charge of U.P. Ghulam Nabi Azad cited her “experience and good work” in heading the Delhi Government for 15 years, and said Ms. Dikshit had been chosen because of her strong track record as chief minister of Delhi.

Pitch for Priyanka

When the party also named members of its campaign and coordination committees for U.P., Ms. Dikshit made a pitch again for Priyanka to campaign outside the family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

‘A major challenge’

Admitting that U.P. will pose a “major challenge”, she said the Congress would go to the polls with confidence, taking on the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party equally. Ms Dikshit’s statement indicated that the Congress had given up trying to have an electoral arrangement with the BSP.

Clearly, age is not a factor, as Ms. Dikshit is 76: she will be up against U.P. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (43) and BSP supremo Mayawati (60) — the BJP has not yet named a CM candidate.

However, the appointment of Raj Babbar as UPCC chief two days ago and Pramod Tewari as the party’s coordination committee chief on Thursday, party sources said, suggested that the Congress was keeping a line open to the SP. Mr. Babbar is a former SP MP, while Mr. Tewari has a good equation with the party.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 8:46:53 PM |

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