The Bharatiya Janata Party comes up with another unexpected twist ahead of the Delhi Assembly polls by recruiting former IPS officer and social activist Kiran Bedi in its ranks. Ms Bedi was formally inducted into the party at the BJP headquarters on January 15 by party president Amit Shah. Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister, and Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology, were also present.
Bedi said that it was the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his patriotic outlook that inspired her to join the BJP. She said, “I joined BJP due to the inspirational leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Delhi needs a strong, clear headed and stable Government. We have to make it Capital number one in the world”. She also commented that this is her opportunity to serve the country.
Bedi had earlier caused much speculation about her political affiliation during her support of the India Against Corruption campaign led by Anna Hazare. Bedi said that she had signed up to be a BJP member over the toll-free number that has been the highlight of the party’s membership recruitment drive.
Meanwhile, speculation is rife that former actress Jaya Prada is keen to join the BJP too. Ms Jaya Prada had initially been a member of the Telugu Desam Party, and had later moved to the Samajwadi Party and then to the Rashtriya Lok Dal. Former leader of the Aam Aadmi Party Shazia Ilmi is also likely to join the BJP.
The biggest question that has now been echoing across Delhi’s political circles since the announcement of Bedi’s induction into the BJP has been, “Is Kiran Bedi BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls?” While the answer to that may well be a resounding affirmative, neither Bedi nor the BJP spokesperson is confirming anything just yet.
Some party members feel that Bedi is too much of an outsider to be quickly made the party’s face for the upcoming polls. What is clear, however, is that the BJP is counting on Bedi to contain the influence of Aam Aadmi Party’s leader, Arvind Kejriwal, in Delhi.
The AAP chief, however, seemed far from apprehensive at the news. He expressed happiness over Bedi’s commitment to political leadership. In a statement issued through the micro blogging site, Twitter, he said “I have been fond of Kiran Bedi ji. I always tried to convince her that she shud join politics. I am happy she did it today.”
A number of Congress leaders went from downright critical to snide and sarcastic. In a tweet about the issue, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said, “U Turn Ms Kiran Bedi? Or genuine change of heart? My best wishes to you. May God be with you.” Others such as Ajay Maken said that the news was shocking and sad and reflected “gross political opportunism”.
Top BJP leaders, however, seemed very glad at the induction. The Finance Minister said, “She has experience in governance and enjoys a credible image. She is associated with certain values. She has been a crusader in Government as well as outside it for a long time”.
The Delhi election scene
In 2013, in the previous Assembly polls held in Delhi, the BJP managed to bag about 31 out of the 70 seats in the House. Even with the addition of the one seat won by BJP’s ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the party fell short of achieving a simple majority. While it had outperformed the Aam Aadmi Party which managed only 28 seats, and the Congress which performed dismally with about eight seats, the BJP has indeed set its aim high this year.
If the Lok Sabha elections are any gauge to go by, the BJP may well be ahead of all others in this race. Then again, it will certainly not be a cakewalk either. The AAP is keen to make a comeback and wipe out the embarrassment after Kejriwal’s hasty resignation within 49 days of forming the Government. This one is certainly a do-or-die battle for the AAP. The Congress too has its own cards to play. In the days preceding Anna’s movement to rid India of corruption and Kejriwal’s advent, the Congress ruled the House with a majority. The party is keen to gain back its position.
The Congress on Thursday released a list of 15 Assembly poll candidates. The party is trying its best to bring in influential young leaders to turn the sway. Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of the President Pranab Mukherjee, will be contesting elections for the Congress from GK in South Delhi. A victory for the Congress would be a vote down for the NaMo Government, the party believes. The BJP’s attempt will be to turn the elections into a Modi Vs Kejriwal affair.
Kiran Bedi – A brief biography
Born in 1949, Bedi joined the ranks of the police in 1972 and became India’s first woman IPS officer. She became an inspiration for women in the country due to her commitment to rid her jurisdictions of crime and her dedication to the cause of upliftment of women. She held the offices of the Director-General at the Bureau of Police Research and Development before retiring in 2007. Bedi followed up on her social causes with the popular TV programme Aap ki Adalat which focused on settling disputes on prime time. Bedi won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award in 1994 for her work with the Government of India. A student of University of Delhi and the IIT, Bedi was quick to join hands with Anna Hazare in his attempt to purge the Indian politics of corruption and misconduct but was critical of Kejriwal’s decision to launch a political party.