Cong names Sheila Dikshit as CM for UP polls

New Delhi, (PTI) Ending speculation, Sheila Dikshit was today named by Congress as its chief ministerial candidate for next year's Assembly polls in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, citing her "experience and good work" in heading Delhi Government for 15 years.Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in charge of party affairs in Uttar Pradesh, said Dikshit was chosen as party's face for the polls considering her strong credentials as Chief Minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms.

Election strategist Prashant Kishor had recommended that Dikshit should play a major role in the party's poll campaign in the state projecting her as a prominent Brahmin face and could help Congress regain support of the electorally sizeable community.

Born in a Punjabi Khatri family, Dikshit, 78, is the daughter-in-law of late Congress veteran from UP Uma Shankar Dikshit, a tall Brahmin leader who had served as a Union minister and governor for a long time.

Her 15-year tenure in Delhi as CM ended with the emergence of AAP in 2013 polls in which Congress lost power.

Announcement of Dikshit's name as CM nominee came days after the party appointed actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar the chief of the Congress in UP.

"Her experience and good work were considered as her big credentials by the party," Azad told a joint media briefing with party leader Janardan Dwivedi.

The party also announced coordination and campaign committees for Uttar Pradesh which will be headed by Sanjay Singh and Pramod Tiwari respectively.

On her part, Dikshit thanked the party leadership for entrusting her with such a "big responsibility", adding she would like to have Priyanka Gandhi campaign with her across the state.

"She (Priyanka) is a very popular leader. My plea would be that she campaign across the state," Dikshit said.

Acknowledging that it will be "major challenge" for her in UP, Dikshit said Congress will go to the polls with confidence and that the party will take on BJP, ruling Samajwadi Party and BSP equally.

Announcement of Dikshit's nomination came on a day the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of Delhi sent a notice to her asking her to join the investigation in connection with the alleged Rs 400-crore water tanker scam. Dikshit called the allegation "politically motivated".

Asked why Dikshit who is facing corruption charges against her has been projected, Azad said corruption charges are there against chief ministers of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and many BJP ministers in Maharashtra.

"If these three chief ministers are ready to resign, then we are ready to take back her name," he said, adding BJP is not taking any action on the allegations against its chief ministers.

"First let us decide on these chief ministers," he said.

The Congress feels making Dikshit, a Brahmin, the face of campaign in Uttar Pradesh will help the party win back support of the community.

The Brahmin community, a traditional vote bank of Congress, had shifted allegiance to BJP in the aftermath of the Mandir-Mandal politics.

A large chunk of Brahmin votes had also gone to Mayawati's BSP in the past when she gave tickets to many candidates belonging to the community.

The community's support determines the poll outcome in several seats in central and eastern UP.

PTI

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