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Kiran Bedi: Master-stroke or Misstep?

BJP is a party known for its strong cadre, its ideology which allows ordinary workers to rise through the ranks and reach the summit, its natural tendency to produce state leaders. Narendra Modi, Devendra Fadnavis, Manohar Parrikar, Manohar Lal Khattar, are all graduates who have gone through the BJP school of leadership, working their way up, by winning the support of their cadre via sheer hard work and performance.

Kiran Bedi’s induction into BJP has negated all the above. By parachuting near the finish line, she has outrun many senior BJP leaders in Delhi, who were running in the race for quite some time.  Naturally, supporters of these leaders will be miffed. Granted she has given a more credible and visible face to the Delhi BJP unit as compared to the current crop , but it has come at a cost. One wonders whether Bedi could have been taken in much in advance, giving the other leaders some time to resign to their fate, especially since rumours are that Bedi was in the reckoning ever since Kejriwal resigned after his 49 day stint.

And it is also not that Kiran Bedi has been a long time BJP sympathiser, who has just been formally taken into the BJP.  As we had shown in our earlier post, Bedi was in fact a vocal critic of BJP and Narendra Modi while she was in the Lokpal movement. This can be demotivating to dedicated BJP members who have strived to uphold the party line through tough times. Bedi at best, has joined BJP at its peak, while the rest have weathered a 10 year long storm. It also plays on the mindset of the average supporter, who may have been anti-Bedi to protect the party, but now has to change his view in line with this “U-Turn”.

This move also gives off the impression that Delhi BJP unit did not have a single leader who the high command felt was worthy of being put up as their face for the elections. This “importing” of leaders is not something which BJP, a “producer” is used to. Yes, BJP did induct many rebel Congress leaders in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, but not many were drafted into important positions, undermining the importance of stalwarts.

Also, whatever Kiran Bedi’s charisma might be, she is no Harshvardhan. Harshvardhan was seen as a clean face, a respected figure, who even the opposition didn’t go after much. Bedi also has a clean image, but there some unanswered questions, some of which Karan Thapar raised. Her loyalty to the party is certainly in question since she has been only a recent supporter, and that too from the time BJP was well into its ascension. This comes off as opportunism and one wonders whether she will stick to BJP through tougher times.

But Bedi does bring with her immense general goodwill. Her feat of being the first IPS woman officer, her image as a no-nonsense, tough task master, her clean image all add to her positives. She played a major role in the Lokpal movement, and has been involved in social work for a long time. Some people say that her never becoming the Police Commissioner, or not winning certain awards, shows that her service record wasn’t satisfactory, but it can also be argued that she didn’t get these posts, which are often politically motivated, because she steadfastly refused to play ball with her Political overlords. This is broadly in sync with the “tough” image Modi enjoyed during the Lok Sabha elections, and may work in her favour.

BJPs’ electoral success depends more on Bedi’s acceptability in her own party than her acceptability among the public. It is understood in political circles that the main reason for BJP not forming a state Government in Delhi for 15 long years is infighting. One fears that with Bedi’s parachute entry, BJP may lose yet another chance, probably its best, to stake claim for the post of Delhi CM.

-With valuable inputs from @IndianTweeter

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