Sidharth Mishra

Story of Kotla From Palace of Feroze Shah To Hearth Of Sports Lovers

The mammoth cricket stadium at the Feroze Shah Kotla complex, which will shortly be named after one of the greatest lovers of the game Arun Jaitley, always did not wear the present elegant look. It’s only about a decade back, with Jaitley at the helm of the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA), that the cricket ground was saved from losing its international venue status.

For several decades since its founding sometime in the early 1940s this stadium bore a very Spartan look. Then functionaries of the DDCA could never raise sufficient funds nor the wherewithal to build a new stadium at the site. The things decayed in a manner that the DDCA was put on notice about holding matches on this ground. It was only after Jaitley came at the helm that the fortunes of the ground changed.

In the 1930s, the British started to build the capital city of New Delhi. As they built the city, the British also scouted for a ground for the imperial sport of cricket. Till then the cricket hub of the city was at colonial Roshanara Club in North Delhi. Thus, in a part of the ruins of the Feroze Shah Kotla, just beyond Delhi Gate of the Walled City was built Willingdon Pavilion, where the offices of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) shifted base.

Adjacent to the cricket stadium was built a soccer ground, which today is known as Ambedkar Stadium. Since the soccer body – Delhi Soccer Association, did not have the means to take the stadium on lease, its ownership always remained with the Municipal Corporation. However, the cricket ground was transferred to the DDCA on 99-year lease.   

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Dikshit & Swaraj: Ideologically Different But Of Same Genre

Delhi had to face substantial loss due to passing away of the two humane and caring women leaders in a period of less than 20 days. Mrs Sheila Dikshit and Mrs Sushma Swaraj both served Delhi as its Chief Minister after BJP high command decided to shift the then Chief Minister Sahib Singh to the Centre as Cabinet Minister in mid-October 1998.

Soon after resigning as Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Mrs. Swaraj became BJP Chief Minister in Delhi on 13th October; she remained in power for just 52 days. The Congress under the leadership of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, Mrs Dikshit secured thumping majority by winning 52 out of 70 seats in the 2nd Vidhan Sabha elections held in November 1998 by unseating the ruling BJP Government facing the wrath of the citizens due to the high price of onions and much deteriorated state of affairs of the electricity and water supply and public transport.

Mrs. Dikshit completed the three consecutive 5-year terms of Chief Minister and relinquished her charge on 28th December 2013. The Congress led by the Chief Minister was dethroned in the 5th Vidhan Sabha elections in the hands of the new Aam Aadmi Party borne out of the agitation of Anna Hazare, a crusader against corruption. 

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Grit of Indian Soldiers Saved Ladakh From Being Lost To Pakistan in 1948

Ladakh by the recent amendment of the Constitution has been made into a Union Territory. The manoeuvre used by the Government to separate Ladakh from the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir to resolve the Kashmir crisis would not have been possible but for the valiant efforts of Indian soldiers in first defending the area from the tribal raiders in 1947-49 and later securing it for seven decades under most inhospitable situation.

Accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India and swift entry of the Indian army in the autumn of 1947 did not discourage Pakistan enough to give up its plan. Governor General Mohammed Ali Jinnah took matters in his control and supervised invasion of Kashmir by the Frontier tribesmen. In the initial months, due to winter severity, Ladakh did not get sufficient focus and was left under the charge of the soldiers belonging to the J&K State Forces of the erstwhile princely state.

These winter months however provided the Indian army to put its war machinery in place. Jammu and Kashmir was now reorganized into two military divisions -- Srinagar and Jammu. The Srinagar division was put under the command of Major General (later General) KS Thimayya and the Jammu division under Major General Atma Singh. Ladakh came under Srinagar division.

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The unenviable task of covering Sheila Dikshit as reporter

The 15 years that Sheila Dikshit was prima donna of Delhi politics, this former reporter had the privileged job of covering her for 14 years for The Pioneer, first as beat reporter and then for over a decade as the head of the city reporting unit. Those were the years of the BJP grounding its feet firmly in national politics and The Pioneer was its only credible sympathizer. Under the situation, it was quite a challenge to cover the most prominent Congress leader in the national Capital.

However, contrary to the expectations, Sheila Dikshit had a great traction with the newspaper and took her criticism in right spirit. It also went to the credit of the newspaper’s editorial policy, especially its editor Chandan Mitra, that he never approved of negativism in reporting and encouraged development related reports which more often than not ended up giving credit to Sheila Dikshit.

This did not endear Mitra and his team to the Delhi state BJP leadership. That’s another story to be told another day but Sheila Dikshit did come in under lot of criticism within her own party for encouraging what was perceived to be an anti-Congress paper. “Dekho BJPwale aa gaye (see the BJP people have come),” she would say in zest whenever I entered her office. It’s another matter that the city BJPwalas always treated us with suspicion.

Sidharth Mishra

Sheila Dikshit: Delhi’s Leader, Delhi’s Loss

Delhi has no full stops and it is not at all a static city – this was something which acted as the governing principle for Sheila Dikshit, the Congress leader who ruled the city for three consecutive terms as its Chief Minister from December 1998 to December 2013 and passed away on Saturday fighting a battle to revive the fortunes of her party as the president of its Delhi unit.

 The first reaction of people on hearing of her demise was, the city is going to miss her. She closely identified with Delhi and carried out her work with an extra-ordinary passion, never ever distracted with any ambition to look beyond the precincts of the city government.

Development of Delhi for her were defined by two parameters – make Delhi into a World Class city but also get it the tag of the Heritage City. 

“Development is not only about cement and concrete but also a definite change in the social ethos, which would make the society move towards a progressive thought process and open mindedness. Such thought process should also get reflected in the building of the infrastructure, and that was what my government tried to achieve. It needed a lot of effort and balancing act but we could manage it,” the leader had recounted in recent personal tête-à-tête.