Where is BJP in Delhi Election Fray? Dr James Kottoor

Public Debate of 3 CM Candiates a Must

Where is BJP in Delhi Election Fray?

       Presidential type public debate — at least two ahead of Feb.7th  voing  — is the ideal James Kottorexercise to prepare Delhi residents to make a calculated, considered, well-informed  choice of the right person as the next CM.

            Is BJP’s Delhi election  being high jacked by Anna Hazare and his once right and left hand  captains – Kiran Bedi and Kejriwal – who fought India against corruption (IAC)? Are they IAC in a new avthar trying to rise up like a Phoenix  from the ashes? In all this where is BJP? Is BJP fighting a proxy war in Delhi? Or is it too short of  charismatic leaders now?

           The fact is many of the old timers who put in years of hard  work for the party reportedly are up in arms against Bedi imported from outside, nay from enemy camp (Bedi was an outspoken critic of corruption in BJP) for CM’s post. They would accept her only “grudgingly” if imposed by High command, one of the critics was heard saying on TV interview. Other discontented elements are going berserk making it look like a revolt in the  Delhi camp. It is not good at all for Modiji, looked up to by the whole world as an exceptional  man of vision, conviction and action, rarely seen in Indian politics.

           Everybody was looking forward to the battle for India’s capital to descend like a spectacular fireworks-explosion  in all rainbow colours for the excitement and entertainment of the entire nation, because of the much advertised Modi wave. That does not seem to be happening.

Birds of Same Feather: Kejri-Bedi

           Kejri and Bedi basically are birds of the same feather. That is why they joined hands with Anna and worked with him long, trying to cleanse India of corruption without entering politics as they both were in agreement  that politics is “dirty business”. But you can’t clean dirt without getting oneself dirty in the process. Such thinking   prompted Arvind to float AAP while Bedi and Anna stayed firm in their conviction to stay clear of all  party politics. Now Bedi also got converted to the ways of Arvind. The question is if it was a self propelled move or one attracted by the bait of a CM’s post offered on a platter by some one.

           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 some one 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 “Khar Wapsi,” 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 quite-going and humble. Otherwise he would not have told Bedi she was worthy of CM’s post. That makes a face to face open debate  between them a bit awkward. . Yet she had first agreed to a presidential style debate with Arvind, 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.

Public Debate,a Must

         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, Jarkand, Hariyana,JK 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  heart burns for too many and infighting in the party, still going on in 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 time more colourful campaign than AAP is capable of.

Affidavits Speak Volumes

         Why? Because as per affidavits filed with nomination papers,  Bedi has assets worth  11.65 crores while Ajay Maken, Congress  tops with  12.43 crores(some reports say 16 crores) and Kejri has just 2.09 crores  which is less than the Rs 2.1.4 lakhs 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 has 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 awarded, 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 trust worthy in small things only can be trusted with great things without any watch and ward. Such people are a very rare species in our 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 gong to strop  it, come what may. 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 (“Master stroke”) 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 (Ms. 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 of Jan.22nd 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 Dhkshit, a three time CM of Delhi as well as NO  to Mamatha of West Bengal, to allow her float about 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 spokes person, on Arnab Gosami’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 mud slinging 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.

Can be contacted at jkottoor@asianetindia.com

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