Kiran Bedi as a CM will take Delhi to newer heights

BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi, hand-picked by Prime Minister Modi and president Amit Shah, is already starting to garner a larger share of media attention. This, as she influences the narrative more than Arvind Kejriwal, last man standing supremo of the AAP.

Bedi's emphasis on development in Delhi not only syncopates well with Prime Minister Modi's 'Vikas' message, and suggests good coordination between the city-State and the Centre, but makes Kejriwal's rants seem petty, amateurish, and quixotic. In fact, Kejriwal's tone of wannabe tehelka-style firebrandism look equally bogus and out of date. But all this is by way of an intelligent perspective, well away from the ways of populism in which Kejriwal specialises.

Still, all Kiran Bedi has to do to keep the pot boiling, is issue daily development oriented sound-bytes in the social and digital media in particular, and look photogenic on TV. She should avoid tripping over her own volubility, and maintain a centrist line, away from the over-simplification of the NGO mindset. This will keep Bedi from inadvertently providing Kejriwal with ammunition to use against her. Recent well-received statements include her seizing the initiative by endorsing the RSS for keeping the country united, her emphasis on work and efficiency rather than debates, convincing noises on women's security, and her future plan to undertake periodic radio broadcasts just like the PM.

Bedi must avoid TV debates with the other CM aspirants like the plague, as it will inevitably dent her front-runner status. Besides the journalists are apt to paint her in opportunistic colours per the Congress line, employed for every BJP joiner, including MJ Akbar before her. It is as if conviction is patented by the pseudo-secularists and all others are, naturally, turncoats! BJP has seized the advantage by inducting Bedi and allocating her the safe seat of Krishna Nagar. She has an instant well-funded State and party apparatus behind her.

The former infighting in the BJP Delhi unit has also been stymied with this development, with none of the stalwarts gaining the upper hand one over the other. They have now all been stapled together willy-nilly by Amit Shah, to serve the overall cause of forming a majority Government in Delhi. And they will be held accountable. So, in the short campaign ahead of her, Bedi, a well-known and longstanding national figure in her own right, can afford to concentrate on projecting her very credible image and administrative ability.

Her peccadilloes, over the years, are few and far between, as her rivals and detractors, looking for dirt on her are finding out. And such as they are, they certainly out-weigh her gifts, talents and accomplishments. One-on-one TV interviews of the kind Shazia Ilmi has given to News X recently, in which she likened the AAP to George Orwell's Animal Farm, could be very useful as the elections date draws nearer.

Kiran Bedi showed good judgement by astutely steering clear of the AAP even when it was in the ascendancy in 2013. But now, daily visuals of her smiling self being copiously garlanded by welcoming crowds makes a refreshing change from Kejriwal being slapped around. And this, more often than not by disgruntled AAP members or constituents whom he has let down. The organisational situation for AAP continues to unravel with considerable speed.

AAP founder member and senior lawyer Shanti Bhushan who famously donated Rs 1 crore of his own money to the AAP, called Bedi's induction into the BJP a 'masterstroke' and Bedi  a candidate 'as good as' Kejriwal. He also heaped other character certificate style praise upon her, further elaborating by saying Kejriwal was 'not suitable' to become CM again. This considerable disenchantment with Kejriwal is not confined to the Bhushans.

Several other founder members and early travellers left soon after the Lok Sabha election wipeout. Shazia Ilmi and Vinod Binny too have already jumped ship to the BJP. Others still in AAP, such as psephologist Yogendra Yadav, are known to be unhappy. And Kejriwal's own famous description of his party members in his heyday does not help. He said, with his trademark smirk, that they resembled 'Shivji's baraat'. So what is going to become of the derisorily dubbed 'Mufflerman'?  Bedi calls him 'confrontational' and the educated people of Delhi seem to have have grown weary of his sensational style. This more so because of Kejriwal's farcical 49-Day administration in 2013.

However, as the Opinion Polls indicate, Kejriwal cannot be written off. He may well benefit from the Congress deliberately helping his campaign and giving his people walk-overs. And also, the very real challenge for Bedi and indeed the BJP is to blunt Kejriwal's support amongst the largely migrant poor of Delhi. They still trust him to reduce their financial burdens and give them a place in the sun.

Courtesy Niti Central



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