x After making it clear that there would be no chief ministerial candidate of the party for the Delhi Assembly polls, and instead Prime Minister Narendra Modi shall be its poll mascot, the Bharatiya Janata Party appears to have modified its strategy. Former police officer and erstwhile Anna Hazare supporter Kiran Bedi’s induction in the party demonstrates that the saffron brigade is nervous and realises that it needs a face to make a scapegoat in the unlikely event of its defeat. The question which arises is whether Kiran Bedi would serve as a diversionary figure to take the blame off Modi in the worst eventuality.
Bedi has always been a high profile person who has courted many controversies during her stint with the police and even after that. She does not like to play second fiddle to anyone and it is virtually certain now that she would be the BJP’s choice for chief ministership in case the party is victorious. Her entry may have energised party workers, but has equally made many seniors unhappy, as their chief ministerial ambitions stand thwarted by a newcomer to the BJP. Bedi has had a troubled relationship with the BJP in the past and was on many occasions the target of city BJP leaders. Former Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana (now ailing) had led several protests against her. She was involved in a confrontation with the lawyers of Tis Hazari courts after which she never got a field posting in the capital. Justice Wadhwa, later also a Supreme Court judge, had indicted her for her role in the alleged assault of lawyers by goons arranged by a former Congress councillor way back in the late 1980s.
The BJP central leadership seems to have become conscious that its plan to woo the Delhi voters needed to be reviewed since the strategy which seemingly worked in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, may not necessarily click in the capital. Secondly, by exposing Modi to a contest against Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, the BJP was needlessly taking an avoidable risk. Though Modi continues to be the most popular leader of the party, BJP’s defeat would prove to be a major setback for his persona. Therefore, a person or a set of persons were needed to deflect the blame in the event of the party’s loss.
Secondly, the Ram Lila ground rally of the Prime Minister last week had many political flaws which need to be corrected before the polls. For instance, the rally did not showcase any of the established Delhi leaders like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Harsh Vardhan, Vijay Goel, Jagdish Mukhi and Vijay Kumar Malhotra. Instead, more importance was given to M. Venkaiah Naidu, Amit Shah and Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay, who is not a well known figure despite holding an important position. Three Chief Ministers of Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand were also given importance. The message that went out was that in Delhi, the BJP could foist an anonymous face. This was not received well by the cadres or by the leaders, though no one had the courage to take up the issue publicly.
The central leadership, however, appears to have realised this folly and while inducting Kiran Bedi into the party ensured that both Arun Jaitley and Harsh Vardhan were prominently positioned on the dais. The good thing about the new look BJP is that it does not shy away from accepting its mistakes and tries course correction immediately. Bedi, of course, is on the top of the world and raring to go and take on her erstwhile colleagues of the Anna movement, though Anna Hazare himself has expressed surprise over her joining the BJP. However, it was obvious to any political analyst in Delhi, that Bedi was gravitating towards the BJP and is now being seen as its best bet to overcome the challenge posed by Kejriwal and his colleagues.
Bedi’s entry into politics has made the Delhi elections extremely high profile and the outcome would be awaited very eagerly. The President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter, Sharmishta Mukherjee has also jumped into the fray as a Congress nominee from the Greater Kailash constituency, thus adding to the excitement. Ajay Maken’s entry as a candidate has also energised the demoralised Congress workers. But it is still not clear why Arvinder Singh Lovely, the DPCC president and four-time MLA from Gandhi Nagar was asked by Rahul Gandhi not to contest.
The BJP is, from now onwards, going to play it very safely in Delhi especially after Kejriwal launched a frontal attack on its city president Upadhyay and vice president Ashish Sood about their alleged association with some discom power companies of the capital. The BJP, which used to be always ahead of the Congress in naming its candidates, has taken its own time. A Bedi vs Kejriwal battle would be keenly watched. Between us.