Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Bedi-Tug of Kejri-War

The political scene at the Centre is posing stiff competition to the Delhi winters, what with its hotness quotient. For once, with a strong ruler at the centre, BJP has played its card carefully and has saved the best for the last. The sudden induction of Kiran Bedi was meant to be a master stroke. But whether it turns out to be a trump card or a damp squib remains to be seen. Kiran Bedi has been the symbol of substance, discipline, female power, integrity and everything one could hope for in a minister. She has experience and she is committed to her cause. For long, she has been sidelined and shunned by corrupt bureaucrats, who didn't see eye to eye with her owing to her straightforward, honest and effective ways of tackling law and order. From being thrown in remote areas to being demoted, she has seen it all. Having taken early retirement, she sided with Anna Hazare in the Lokpal movement but broke away from Kejriwal’s party.
But did BJP really need her? Did BJP really need an outsider to win the elections? The Modi wave threatens to sweep AAP away with its ostentatious Swachh Bharat and Make in India campaigns. But the party biggies must have realized that Delhi was a crucial election and if it failed to secure a majority in this, it would jinx the Modi magic in a way that might give the opposition fresh hope. The party needs to make hay while the sun shines and so it was exceedingly imperative for them to pit a diamond against a diamond. And that they did. Modi found someone like him, someone sans family ties and reputed to be authoritative and sturdy. Understandably, it created ripples in the party, as it upset the long standing members who felt unduly neglected in return for their devotion and long years of work for the party. It looks like a repeat of the LS polls, when Mr. Modi replaced the top brass like Advani and Joshi to become the PM candidate. Mr. Modi sure seems to be following his principle of minimum government, shrinking his cabinet and reducing it to a select few, whom he can supervise. It doesn't look like BJP at all, but MnM, Modi and Modi. Perhaps he feels that too many cooks spoil the broth, that too many ministers mean too many sops. He seems to have taken fancy to the hobbesian concept.
When the party realized that the Modi rally in Delhi did not achieve as high inputs as it could have expected, owing to the Modi effect, Shah put on his thinking cap and came up with a failsafe solution. Bring in someone untainted. Like Harsh Vardhan, the previous CM candidate from BJP, who was chosen precisely on such grounds. To match up to the concept of “change” and “new” and corruption-free, the principles that AAP espouses, BJP put forward a face that had no connection with scams or deals but had a strong reputation and influential record in the government. The consideration of Kiran Bedi for CM is a dream come true for many, especially the middle class, which formed a major vote base of AAP. After Mr. Kejriwal’s abdication of the Delhi chair, AAP lost a good section of this voter base which Ms. Bedi seeks to grab. If she does become the CM, atleast law and order ought to see a revampment. One can hope for more safety for women and a better response to heinous assaults on women than Mrs. Dixit’s “women should keep off the streets at night”.
But what happens when two hard taskmasters come together? Going by Kiran Bedi’s track record, she doesn’t brook any nonsense, any injustice. She might not be an eloquent speaker but she is a tough taskmaster. But will she tolerate the RSS’s communal agenda? Will she speak out against spurious speakers like Sadhvi and Sakshi Maharaj and incidents like church conflagrations, love jihad and ghar wapsi, thus inviting the party’s displeasure or prefer to take a euphemistic approach by sealing her lips and ignoring it all like light hearted banter in the light of big things like law and order and development on the lines of our PM’s course of action? What if Ms Bedi does not like some decision the PM takes? Or some order given to her does not resonate with her principles? Will she too abdicate her throne or will she last longer than Kejri’s 49-day stint?
Also, how healthy is it for a democracy to have the same party in the country and the same party at the Centre? Does it bode well when the string of ordinances threaten to choke the parliamentary procedure or when the media is hushed up and the detractors compelled to concede defeat? Or when industrialization and land acquisitions gain say over the displacement of poor farmers threatened by homelessness and displacement?
It looks to be a very tough choice between Ms Bedi and Mr. Kejriwal. One is former IPS, known for her impartial crackdown on wrongs and breaches of law and order. It almost looks like Ms. Bedi will host ‘AAP’ ki Kachhehri soon. On the other side of the fence is former IRS, known for his firebrand activism and (in)famous dharnas. He shot to fame with his humble weapon, and wielded more magic with his broom than a witch ever could with hers. The comparison cannot be based on qualifications or track record though, because if that were the case, then our erstwhile PM Manmohan Singh, with his noteworthy qualifications and impeccable record as the FM, would win a hundred times over our current PM, who had less education than you and me and the taint of communal riots on his trademark waistcoat.
The winner in all this may as yet be unknown. But the loser is pretty clear. In all this quagmire, no one seems to realize the ‘decongressization’  of the country. The supporters of Congress have been divided by the rise of AAP. Where BJP retains its right wing vote base, the leftists are confused between AAP and Congress. Chanakyaneeti or the concept of divide and rule has been played exceptionally well in this game of thrones.

So, how do we make our choice? Whom do we trust? Can Ms. Bedi be the messiah who will solve all the problems? Or will she be disillusioned by the power play or the centralization of power in the hands of a few (read one)? Can Mr. Kejriwal deliver on his promise of ‘5 saal, kejriwal’ or will he quit within 5 days this time round? Whoever wins, let’s hope we, the people, are not the losers.

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