Presidential type public debate — at least two ahead of Feb.7th voting — is the ideal exercise to prepare Delhi residents to make a calculated, considered, well-informed choice of the right person as the next CM
To a question by Headlines Today Anchor, what made her change her long held conviction, she had refused to give a straight answer. Then he asked who invited her to jump into politics. To this she said that someone did. On further question to name that person she said it was a “very dependable” person but refused to name him. Does it mean that either Modiji or Amit Shah offered her the CM’s post to entice her to join BJP? If her answer is “Yes”, one may blame her for being opportunist. If it was a self-propelled conversion, unlike “Ghar Vapsi,” then she is quite justified. To change one’s mind for good reasons, is the mark of a wise person (Mutare consilium est sapientis) as a Latin saying goes.
Both of them besides were mutual admirers. While Bedi may be bit overbearing and showy, Kejri seems more quiet and humble. Otherwise he would not have told Bedi she was worthy of CM’s post. That akes a face to face open debate between them a bit awkward. Yet she had first agreed to a presidential style debate with Kejri, but when AAP challenged her, she changed her mind, betraying cowardice than courage in spite of media people presenting them as ‘Iron Lady’ and ‘Iron Man’.
Modi Started Presidential Style In any case a presidential type public debate, as I suggested in my earlier article is quite in order for more than one reason. First of all this time, BJP’s was a presidential style campaign unleashed from the very start and carried forward with full vigour by Modiji himself. Thus his towering success came to be attributed to that style of publicity and campaign. On the national level it was all led by Modi himself and he did it to perfection addressing any number of meetings from dawn to dusk. So on state level, logically it had to be led by the one who gets elected or nominated as the CM candidate.
In the present instance it is Kiran Bedi herself in Delhi. That it did not happen in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana, J&K, etc. was a diversion from the set pattern, either because Modi wave was convincingly strong or certain states lacked credible leaders craving for a CM post. In Delhi instead there were many hoping to become one. Hence heartburns for too many and infighting in the party still goes on, though in a subdued manner, even after rebukes from Amit Shah to fall in line. This discontent is shared also by Delhi voters because Bedi was booed by a section of the crowd on her road shows. But the BJP top brass has all resources, men and money to put up a thousand times more colourful campaign than AAP is capable of.
Affidavits Speak Volumes Why? Because as per affidavits filed with nomination papers, Bedi has assets worth11.65 crores while Ajay Maken, Congres stops with12.43 crores (some reports say 16 crores) and Kejri has just 2.09 crores which is Rs 2.14 lakhs less than what he filed in 2013-14. After every stint in parliament those who enter politics as a profession usually multiply their assets. This has not happened in the case of Kejriwal. His assets have gone down from what he declared last year. So he has not made any money through his political profession. I am not saying revelation of assets by candidates is picture perfect. Even Kiran Bedi was accused of inflating her travel bills and getting nearly double the amount of what she actually had to pay, when she was with Anna Hazare fighting India against corruption. The allegation was about travel bills for which she used to get concessions as a Magsaysay awardee, but she instead got the full amount from those who used to invite her for various functions to distant places.
This of course, is pittance compared to the big loot professional politicians usually make. Caesar’s wife must be above reproach. Only in that sense she was blamed at that time. The principle is those who are faithful and trustworthy in small things only can be trusted with great things without any watch and ward. Such people are a very rare species in the corrupt and corrupting Indian politics.
Kejri Flouting Election Rules?
This reminds me of two allegations about Kejriwal. The first is that he flouted election rules by encouraging people to accept bribe money offered by BJP and congress, but to vote for AAP. If that is wrong, the principle, “set a thief to catch a thief” is also wrong. Those who win elections one after another by throwing in any amount of money are not going to stop it. They belong to the group that tasted blood. Only way to punish them is to take what is offered unsolicited and vote always according to one’s conscience. That way the bribe giver’s malpractice is made doubly costly and punished with zero benefit to himself/herself. What is wrong is to demand bribe money and vote only for the one who gives it.
A second one is the public rebuke to Kejri and unsolicited (“Masterstroke”) praise to Kiran Bedi, by Shanti Bhushan, the reputed lawyer and founder member of AAP. Very good at first sight for Bedi, but read it along with what Delhi’s Legal fraternity had to say:“The legal fraternity wants to place on record that the decision to make her (Bedi) the Chief Ministerial candidate on the basis of her administrative skill is contrary to the records.”Reports say she never could complete full term in any office posted. Quoting Mr. Khosla, the Hindu on Jan. 22 reports “Ms. Bedi lacks administrative skill….. is known for creating circumstances to come in news. Thus the legal fraternity in no circumstances shall ever accept her as the Chief Minister of Delhi.”
As for Kejriwal he has great admiration for Bhushan, both as mentor and father figure. A person of that stature, in my view, has the freedom, and also the duty of calling his wards, Kejri and Bedi, privately and correcting them mildly or wildly, before going public with humiliating statements. For consolation Bhushan also said: “The AAP offered her the chief minister’s position a year ago, it has been said. This means that Arvind himself thought that she was a good candidate. But she turned it down. Perhaps, she always was pro-BJP.”
Bedi Immature CM for Delhi?
With all respect to Shanti Bhushan, I would not do what he did. I am inclined to agree with Prasanth Bhushan, his son. Let readers make their own judgments. From my own experience as a news watcher and writer I find more democracy and transparency in AAP than in Congress or BJP and in that order. For example see how dissent, big or small, is quelled both in Congress (praising Modi by Janardan Dwivedi) and revolt in BJP(of CM hopefuls) against Bedi.Most disturbing in this context is the Republic day happening: self-projection of Kiran Bedi at front raw as a partisan election stunt, her shameless shouting: “I am the woman of the moment” in Delhi elections and denial of invitation to three more deserving persons, to Kejri a former Delhi CM who expressed his desire to attend, to Sheila Dikshit, a three time CM of Delhi as well as not allowing Mamata Banerjee to showcase the West Bengal float about her empowering ten lakh women, her great achievement.
The “most immature person to be CM of Delhi” was the unanimous vociferous comment from all, except the BJP spokesperson, on Arnab Goswami’s TV debate the following day. If these were not blatant misuse of the country’s all inclusive Republic Day, to promote petty, dirty, shameful partisan politics by a few puny minds, what else were they? Obama did not come as a BJP invitee to canvass for Bedi. Now Obama is gone and Bedi is left no crutch to hang on. So who will help, every time she opens her mouth and puts her foot into it?
For this, it looks, BJP is putting the whole battalion of its cabinet ministers to prop her up against a single handed Kejri, which now makes him literally a David against Goliath. It is for the enlightened Delhi voters to say an emphatic NO to these self destructive undemocratic partisan political forces.
Public Debate a Must
One final point: both the BJP and AAP CM candidates must be judged (congress being no serious contender) for promotion or punishment only after listening to their election manifesto or concrete programme for Delhi. That can’t be done by listening to mudslinging at each other whenever they get a public speaking opportunity. It can be done only in a planned presidential type debate by taking questions from the public and allowing each CM candidate to give answers in order to enlighten the voting public with solid reasons for voting for one candidate rather than another.
In this debate all three CM candidates should be given equal time on a public platform to be quizzed by people and journalists. It would be advisable to arrange two such public discussions ahead of Delhi Polls on Feb.7th. In the second debate, the defects of the first debate – there are bound to many in the first attempt – could be corrected.
The public spat that is going on among the three CM candidates is quite unbecoming of an enlightened democracy. Topics for such debates could be problems plaguing Delhi, like electricity, water, bribe taking, crime, women’s safety, slums of the poor, affordable schools for elementary education, Jan Lokpal, Statehood for Delhi etc.
This could be the best service Delhi Elections can render to the ordinary voting public who do not have the time and opportunity to study the pros and cons of various burning issues as well as the strengths and weaknesses of three CMs, to make use of their voting rights responsibly.
(The writer can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)