Veteran Indian politician Sheila Dikshit dies at 81

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Sheila Dikshit pictured earlier this yearImage source, Getty Images
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Sheila Dikshit was the longest-serving chief minister of Delhi

The former chief minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit has died aged 81, following a long illness.

The veteran politician was the longest-serving chief minister of the Indian capital, serving for three terms from 1998 to 2013.

Dikshit also served as the governor of the southern state of Kerala and as president of the main opposition Congress Party in Delhi.

Ms Dikshit passed away on Saturday afternoon at a hospital in the capital.

Earlier this year she was named as a Congress candidate in the general election. But she was unsuccessful in her race to win the North East Delhi seat in the lower house of parliament, known as the Lok Sabha.

"It is very disappointing, we should have won," she said at the time.

The Indian leader paid tribute to Ms Dikshit after news broke of her death.

"Blessed with a warm and affable personality, she made a noteworthy contribution to Delhi's development," Mr Modi said in a tweet. "Condolences to her family and supporters."

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India's President Ram Nath Kovind also shared his condolences.

"Sad to hear of the passing of [Ms Dikshit]," he said. "Her term in office was a period of momentous transformation for the capital for which she will be remembered."

Rahul Gandhi, the former Congress Party leader, said he was "devastated" by the news of her death. "She served selflessly," he said.

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Ms Dikshit entered politics after her husband's death and became an MP for the first time in 1984.

"The first speech I made my legs and hands were all shaking. I was so nervous," she told the BBC in an interview in 2006.

"Even now, I am in politics but I don't really understand the tricks of it," she said. "Neither am I interested."