Monday, 19 January 2015

Congress ‘wary’ of saffron party; Kiran Bedi’s entry into BJP makes some party men sulk........

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader AK Antony has said that he is not wary of former IPS officer Kiran Bedi joining the politics, rather apprehensive of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

"Bedi has always been in Delhi and nothing much needs to be seen in her entry into electoral politics. But as far as the BJP is concerned, yes, they will be taken seriously," he told IANS. 

Antony, 74, who has been the longest serving defence minister (for over seven years) in the Congress-led UPA government, participated in the state Congress party leaders' meet. 

Antony, three-time chief minister of Kerala whose term as Rajya Sabha member ends early next year, has made it clear that he will have no role in the state politics. 

As the Congress Working Committee member, Antony also heads the party's disciplinary committee. 

However, having already expressed his displeasure over the statements of party colleague Shashi Tharoor (who praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi), he told IANS that being a chairman of the disciplinary committee it's not right for him to make any more comments on it. 

Over the years, Antony has been a star campaigner for his party. His presence at the leaders' meet here Saturday appears to have warmed up the party members ahead of the upcoming local bodies elections likely in September. 

Some BJP leaders are sulking 

The BJP's projection of India's first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi as its face in Delhi has divided the party, with one section overjoyed and the other left sulking. 

Some also feel that while the decision was right, it may have come a little too late for the Bharatiya Janata Party to score its first victory in assembly elections after 1993. 

The move took even some leaders in the BJP in Delhi by surprise but has boosted the morale of workers who were stunned by the aggressive campaign of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), party sources said. 

"The BJP has definitely found the right candidate (Bedi) and it will help the party's prospects as she has decades of administrative experience and knows how to get things done," party spokesman Ashwini Upadhyay told IANS. 

"She has worked on international assignments with the UN as well as on the streets to help children through her NGO," he added. 

Another party functionary, however, said that some leaders were sulking as their ambitions had been stifled. 

Arivind Kejriwal's AAP finished a surprise close second in the December 2013 election winning 28 seats against the BJP's 31. The Congress finished a distant third with just eight seats in the house of 70. Before Bedi was brought in, opinion polls were predicting another hung house in Delhi although with the BJP doing marginally better than in 2013. 

Many in the BJP hope that Bedi, 65, will prove a tough match for Kejriwal, who at age 46 too has strong anti-corruption credentials. 

Bedi has been an anti-corruption activist, a former tennis player and her innings in Delhi Police is still widely remembered in the city. Bedi initiated prison reforms in the Tihar Central Jail. 

She has won the Ramon Magsaysay award, an honour she shares with Kejriwal. Both were part of the anti-corruption agitation led by Gandhian Anna Hazare. 

Since her induction in the BJP, Bedi has talked about her priorities — as a likely candidate to lead the party's campaign. 

BJP leaders say that while the party has considerable support among the middle class, it needs to work harder to woo the poor and the working class. 

They also said that the BJP could not have gone without a local face after the Congress named Ajay Maken as its campaign chief. 

"AAP had Kejriwal and the Congress named Maken. We were the only ones left without a prominent local face. It would have been better if the decision (about Bedi) had been taken earlier," another leader said. 

The source added: "The BJP conducted an internal survey which showed that Kejriwal's anti-corruption credentials and the BJP not having a prominent face were working against the party." 

The BJP continues to bank on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal but now Bedi is a new face in the party's propaganda campaign. "It would be very tough for AAP to target Bedi. The BJP needed such a face in Delhi," another leader said. 

Delhi goes to the polls Feb 7. The BJP is keen on a victory after losing face in 2013 when the AAP went on to form a minority government and ruled the city for 49 days before Kejriwal resigned. 

Delhi has been under President's rule for the past 11 months. The BJP had named Harsh Vardhan as its chief ministerial candidate in 2013 but he is now in the Modi Cabinet. 

Pradeep Kumar Dutta, who teaches at Delhi University, said Bedi was a strong and effective administrator and her joining the party "will beef up support among the middle class and the government employees who previously voted for Kejriwal". 

Senior journalist Kuldip Nayar said the BJP "has got a face" in Delhi with Bedi's induction and this will help it to get swing votes.

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