Has Kiran Bedi been able to prove herself a strong enough challenger to Arvind Kejriwal?
They were the prominent faces of anti-corruption movement. Together, they had challenged the authority and lent national importance to the ‘India Against Corruption’ campaign. Like inseparable twins, they were seen strategising and steering the movement forward. Almost five years later, both Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal find themselves pitted against each other. While she has sided with the powerful, he is fighting with those taking on the powerful.
Delhi assembly elections have brought two erstwhile allies into the battlefield where they cannot afford to be fence-sitters.
Question mark on Kiran Bedi’s credibility
Credibility is certainly not on Kiran Bedi’s side. She fell out with Kejriwal over the latter’s decision to launch a political party and took a u-turn only few weeks back when she gladly joined BJP and accepted the title of chief ministerial candidate. In what is seen as a career self-sabotage, Bedi joined a party which she had once described as the most corrupt. This move is being interpreted as a compromise that the ex-IPS officer did as far as corruption is concerned.
The fortnight-old politician has been conspicuously missing from media bytes. The low turnout at her road shows clearly reflect that her campaign is no match for AAP’s personalised style of door-to-door campaigning. Bedi’s unpreparedness and her fuzzy ideas about Delhi’s issues have exposed her as an amateur politician.
Harping on the one-point agenda of women’s safety has not augured well with the Delhiites who wanted to see her commitment towards several other issues crying for attention. A “manager and master” of her time, Bedi should have realised something very rudimentary – her agenda should be in sync with the constituency’s needs.
BJP played safe by letting her contest from its stronghold – Krishna Nagar constituency. However, she is looked upon as an ‘outsider’ who cannot be expected to solve the problems of the locals. In fact, her candidature has led people into believing that BJP’s only objective is to defeat Arvind Kejriwal and not usher in development. As political observers would suggest, contesting from New Delhi constituency, directly against Kejriwal would have been the real test of her mettle.
The debutant is seen as BJP’s alternative to ‘Modi magic,’ which, according to some, has started to wane. Some also saw desperation in BJP to find a face that could match Kejriwal’s stature and galvanise its party cadres ahead of 2015 Delhi assembly elections. Bedi has not cared to explain her stand even though reports are doing rounds that she was inducted in the party to borrow the ‘semblance of honesty.’
Ground covered by Kejriwal
Kejriwal did not take long to realise that his party cannot remain a “bijli-paani or anti-corruption brigade” and that is precisely why he got into the act early. AAP’s 70-point election manifesto ( a ‘sacred document’ prepared after four months of research) is perhaps an indication that the muffler man has moved to the next level. The new blueprint has retained party’s previous promises of full statehood and turning Jan Lokpal Bill into a law.
Kejriwal scored a brownie when he challenged Bedi to a public debate and the latter snubbed him under the pretext of avoiding any political ‘tamasha’ (theatrics). By saying that she will debate with him only in the Delhi Assembly, Bedi sent across a wrong message – she does not like to be confronted with tough questions.
The AAP chief was also prudent enough to garner public support much before his rivals could even decide on their strategies. Kejriwal-led AAP is already two months ahead of the competition curve since it had started campaigning for Delhi assembly elections in November 2014. With Bedi coming to the picture only weeks before the elections, she could not measure up to Kejriwal’s on-field activism.
Unlike the ‘anarchist’ chief minister of 2013, Kejriwal has morphed himself into a seasoned public servant who is ready to stay the course. He is nosing ahead of the rest by riding high on the support of the industrial workers, daily wage earners and everyone else belonging to Delhi’s ‘underclass.’ For a politician like Kiran Bedi, who has not demonstrated resilience and the ability to bounce back, Kejriwal is undoubtedly a formidable contender.