The 78-year-old was enjoying an almost-retired life in the quiet environs of Nizamuddin East, and what Prashant Kishor had in mind for her was most unexpected. After all, even when there were elections in her backyard in early 2015, no one suggested that she lead the Delhi Congress; her photo wasn't even used in the Congress posters for the election that would be swept by Arvind Kejriwal.
But this was Prashant Kishor's out-of-the-box suggestion for Uttar Pradesh. If the good people of Delhi loved Sheila Dikshit enough to give her three terms from 1998 to 2013, let's end her hiatus and give neighbours in UP what they want (additional benefit: let's also compensate for ignoring her for Ajay Maken in the 2015 Delhi election).
The story sounds a little unbelievable and has obviously been spiced up by jealous Congressis, but when you meet Sheila Dikshit now, you start wondering if it may be true to some degree. Could Mrs Dikshit finally be losing her evergreen appeal? Had the desperate Congress pulled out someone who was not only unwilling but also, at 78, a bit old ("experienced" as political cover-up) for the job?
She's had an open-heart surgery and an angioplasty; usually, that doesn't amount to much for politicians who always bounce back as if revived by the zeal of being in power. But at the press conference today, Mrs Dikshit showed none of the feistiness of her first two terms as Delhi Chief Minister. She skipped making any opening remarks (which usually netas never do) and at several points in the press conference, she asked for questions to be repeated. Some aides confessed that she wasn't at her physical best though they also pointed out she may be doing better than others at her age.
So here's to the woman who's first campaign I covered as a journalism student in 1998, when she took on the BJP's Kirti Azad in Delhi. "Darling, who knows?!'' she'd said to some question I asked her about her prospects, betraying her Convent of Jesus and Mary and Miranda House background.
That's perhaps apt in 2016 too.
(Sunetra Choudhury is Editor, National Affairs, NDTV 24x7)
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