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Kiran Bedi made Delhi BJP's face for polls, but questions remain

Updated: Jan 22, 2015, 00:46 AM IST

After apparently failing to find a formidable candidate to take on an over-ambitious Aam Admi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, the supremely confident BJP has finally made Kiran Bedi, the former IPS officer, its face for crucial assembly polls in Delhi scheduled to be held next month.

Though with the induction of Kiran Bedi and several other known faces from rival parties, Amit Shah has played a master stroke to silence critics ahead of the crucial polls, the move has also brought to fore the internal squabble and bickering in the the BJP.

There is no doubt that the induction of Kiran Bedi, a former anti-corruption crusader and a Team Anna member, into the party fold has enthused a new sense of freshness in the BJP, but it has also shattered the hopes of some who hoped to become the chief minister of Delhi.

The unrest over Kiran Bedi being officially named the party's chief ministerial candidate is growing in BJP's Delhi unit, so much so that the top brass had to caution its state level leadership to put up a united front and fall in line.

Inarguably, with someone like Kiran Bedi – an able administrator, a powerful orator, a highly decorated police officer and, more importantly, a woman, who fully understands Delhi and all that ails it - on board, the BJP has certainly got an edge over others and is projected to benefit from the move in the crucial polls. But the 'party with a difference' has also become a laughing stock, with its arch-rivals now taking pot shots at it for having to 'import' leaders from other parties in its sheer desperation to win assembly polls.

Amit Shah's decision to make Kiran Bedi the main face of crucial Delhi elections and pit her against the Aam Aadmi Party leader itself reveals the untold and the unsaid – that all is not well in the party, that there is a clear lack of unanimity and coordination in its state unit, and that there is no credible leader to challenge Kejriwal and ensure victory for the party.

By anointing Bedi as the CM candidate, the apex leadership has clearly ignored the four strong contenders for the chief minister's job - Union Science and Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay, Janakpuri MLA Jagdish Mukhi and Rajya Sabha member Vijay Goel. Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani's name was also being speculated by the media.

The BJP has tried to counter critics by saying that Bedi's inclusion will impact Kejriwal directly, but the fact is that many senior Delhi BJP leaders are opposed to working under someone who has been para-dropped on them by the top brass just to win elections. The party is apparently divided on the issue and many Delhi BJP leaders know about Kiran Bedi's authoritarian nature, uncompromising attitude and dictatorial tendencies.

While the workers are visibly happy to have a strong candidate leading them in the assembly elections, some have openly questioned Bedi's ability to take along everyone in the party with her. State BJP leaders are unable to digest that someone new in politics with zero political experience is being given so much attention than those who have dedicated their entire lives as loyal workers of the party.

Despite being a high-profile entrant to party, Bedi has no idea of the organisational set up within the BJP and its complex umbilical link with its ideological head – the RSS and its various affiliates. So, can she manage all this with ease and élan will be tested at a later stage? It would not be wrong to ask what moral ground Bedi has to join the BJP when in the past she had severely criticised PM Narendra Modi, whose 'inspiring' leadership now influenced her decision to enter politics.

Kiran Bedi is connected to many non-governmental organisations working for women and children's causes and has strong views on issues of utmost importance, so it would be interesting to see what would be her take on the right-wing Hindu outfits like VHP, Bajrang Dal etc.

The BJP also has no moral high ground to project itself as a 'party with a difference' as it too poached on disgruntled leaders of rival parties to join the Modi brigade just for the vote bank and electoral victory. The much-publicised induction of Kiran Bedi, Shazia Ilmi (AAP), Vinod Kumar Binny (AAP), Krishna Tirath (Congress), Manjul Krishna Thakur (TMC) and many others in the recent past proves this point.

It is true that Delhi holds an important place in Narendra Modi and Amit Shah's scheme of things.

After losing the opportunity to form government in Delhi despite emerging as the single largest party in 2013 polls, the BJP does not want to be a loser for the fifth time in the national capital.

PM Modi's flop show on January 10 and an internal survey reportedly conducted by the party, which showed that Kejriwal's strong anti-corruption credentials and lack of a prominent face were working against the party, probably forced the BJP top brass to rope in Kiran Bedi - a local, known and a credible candidate.

A victory in Delhi would certainly bolster the BJP's 'Congress-free India' campaign and ensure better Centre-state coordination as it is in power centrally. Both Kejriwal and Bedi are hyper-active on social media, with more than a million followers each on Twitter, are regular face of TV debates and have a strong support base in the national capital; so all this has made the electoral battle here very interesting amid several encouraging poll surveys.

Though BJP continues to bank on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal, Bedi is now an important face in the party's propaganda machinery as in case of any defeat the blame can easily be put on her.

Delhi goes to polls on February 7 and the BJP is keen on a victory after losing face in 2013 when the AAP went on to form a government with Congress' support and ruled the city for 49 days before Kejriwal resigned. In Kiran Bedi, the BJP has surely got a face in Delhi and it is now a matter of few weeks only to know if her induction really helps BJP swing large chunk of votes in its favour.