- Ms Dikshit died on Saturday of a cardiac arrest at a Delhi hospital
- She had served as Delhi's chief minister for three consecutive terms
- Condolences poured in for the Congress leader from across the country
Political leaders from across party lines said farewell to three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who died on Saturday after a cardiac arrest at the age of 81. The veteran Congress leader was cremated on Sunday at a state funeral. The Delhi government has announced a two-day mourning, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted.
Condolences have been pouring in since her death was announced on Saturday evening. Among the first to tweet were Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress's Rahul Gandhi, former President Pranab Mukherjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
On Sunday, her airy Delhi home hosted hundreds who dropped in to pay their respects. Later, her body was taken to the Congress headquarters in central Delhi. The cremation took place at the Nigam Bodh Ghat on the banks of Yamuna.
At the Congress headquarters, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh offered their last tributes as the funeral procession prepared to move on to Nigam Bodh Ghat. Others included the BJP's Sushma Swaraj and LK Advani, and National Conference's Omar Abdullah.
Sonia Gandhi, who shared a close personal relationship with Ms Dikshit, described her as a "almost an elder sister and a friend" to news agency ANI. Her daughter Priyanka Gandhi recalled how the veteran leader always greeted her with a hug. Rahul Gandhi is in the US and has offered his condolences on phone to Sheila Dikshit's son, Sandeep Dikshit.
Sheila Dikshit was admitted to Fortis Escorts hospital after a cardiac arrest on Saturday. "A multi-disciplinary team of doctors, led by Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, carried out the advanced resuscitative measures. Her condition stabilised temporarily. However, she had another cardiac arrest and despite all the resuscitative efforts, passed away at 3:55pm on 20th of July 2019," Fortis said in a statement.
The Delhi government has declared a two-day state mourning for Sheila Dikshit's death, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted.
Sheila Dikshit had served as Delhi's chief minister for three consecutive terms between 1998 and 2013. She was succeeded by Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal. After her stint as Delhi chief minister, she went to Kerala's as the Governor in 2014, but resigned in just six months.
Born in Punjab's Kapurthala, Sheila Dikshit was credited with numerous people-friendly programmes. During her 15-year stint, Delhi had taken huge strides towards clean air and inclusive governance.
Among her key initiatives for Delhi were buses run on Compressed Natural Gas, inclusion of Resident Welfare Organisations in local governance, focus on infrastructure including roads and flyovers, privatisation of discoms and trifurcation of Delhi's civic body. Even in death, she had chosen to be cremated in a CNG crematorium, underscoring her message of a clean environment.
In his condolence message, PM Modi tweeted: "Blessed with a warm and affable personality, she made a noteworthy contribution to Delhi's development. Condolences to her family and supporters. Om Shanti."
Arvind Kejriwal said he was shocked by the news. "I had met her for nearly an hour last month when she came with her party's delegation to submit a memorandum on several issues. At the end of the meeting I wished her good health, not knowing that this would be my last meeting with her."
The two had been political rivals, but their exchanges on twitter had been peppered with banter.
In a letter to Sheila Dikshit's family, Sonia Gandhi wrote that her legacy was a transformed Delhi. "She worked with such vision and dedication to transform Delhi, to make it a much better place to live in for all its citizens, including the poorest, and that tremendous achievement remains her lasting legacy," Sonia Gandhi wrote.
The family has opted out of a prayer meeting, deciding instead to celebrate her life, sources said.