STATE TIMES NEWS New Delhi: The mortal remains of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit were consigned to flames on Sunday afternoon as hundreds of mourners carrying Congress flags and placards thronged the streets, braving heavy rain and gusty winds, to bid an emotional farewell to their leader. The 81-year-old Congress veteran, who died on Saturday due to cardiac arrest, was cremated with full state honours in a CNG-run crematorium at the Nigambodh Ghat. Top Congress leaders, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, were present at the funeral.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and Home Minister Satyendar Jain were among those who attended the last rites.
Before Dikhsit embarked on her final journey, her admirers and supporters flocked to her Nizamuddin East residence to catch one last glimpse of the former chief minster, credited with transforming Delhi into a modern, contemporary city.
BJP veteran L K Advani, senior party leader Sushma Swaraj and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah were among those who visited Dikshit’s residence in the morning to pay their last respects.
People jostled with each other, trying to capture images on their mobile phones, as her glass casket, wrapped in the Tricolour, was put in a white, flower-bedecked van.
The body was first taken to the AICC headquarters, where Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, chief ministers Kamal Nath and Ashok Gehlot, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Raj Babbar among others paid their respects.
Thereafter, the casket was taken to the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee’s office for the last time, the place that was central to Dikshit’s politics since 1998.
Hundreds of drenched people tailed her van to the crematorium and stood hand-in-hand in puddles of rainwater till plumes of smoke billowed from the chimney at the CNG crematorium, which she had inaugurated in 2012.
Earlier, paying homage to Dikshit, Sonia Gandhi said, “I will always remember her. She was a friend… almost like an elder sister. This is a big loss to the Congress party.”
Friends and admirers fondly recalled their interactions with Dikshit during her 15 years stint as the chief minister of the national capital.
Delhi BJP leader Harish Khurana reminisced that Dikshit was the first person to visit his father, Madanlal Khurana, when he suffered a brain haemorrhage.
Nandkishore Anand, 51, a Congress supporter, said he got his head tonsured when he heard about Dikshit’s demise as she was like a “mother” to him.
“This was my way of paying my last respects to her. She was like my mother. She would meet every party worker like a mother meets her children. She gave everything to the city in her 15-year tenure as Delhi chief minister, I just shaved my head,” he said. Shashi Bhushan, 50, a printing press owner, said he doesn’t align with any political ideology but came to pay his tributes to Dikshit because she was above party politics.
“There is a dearth of such fair-minded, kind-hearted leaders. She was a chief minister who worked selflessly and took everybody along. I remember that she was very concerned when newspapers reported that sparrows were disappearing from the city due to rapid urbanisation,” he said.
Mobina Khatoon, 56, a resident of Nizammudin West, said she was grateful to Dikshit for helping her daughter secure admission in a school after a reputed private institution stopped special classes for EWS category students.
“I owe a lot to her… when nobody listened to us, she came to our rescue. I could not thank her then, so I came here today to see her one last time and offered prayers for her,” she said.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited her residence and was accompanied by Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari.
As the longest serving woman chief minister who steered her party to victory for three consecutive terms in 1998, 2003 and 2008, Dikshit ushered in an era of all-round development that transformed Delhi into a world class capital.
She also initiated green reforms in public transport sector successfully accomplishing the shift from polluting vehicles to a CNG-based fleet.
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