NEW DELHI: The induction of former anti-corruption crusaders and Anna Hazare team members – retired police officer Kiran Bedi and former journalist Shazia Ilmi – into the Bharatiya Janata Party has increased the unrest in the party’s Delhi unit. Yet, the party’s top leadership has decided to persist with pitching Bedi against Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal keeping the disproportionate importance of the Delhi Assembly elections results in its larger Narendra Modi-Amit Shah plan of capturing power in the States.
The BJP has allowed Ms. Bedi – Mr. Kejriwal’s fellow crusader in Hazare’s anti-corruption movement – to project herself as a potential chief ministerial candidate from the time she met the Prime Minister and was inducted into the party by Mr. Shah on Thursday, as part of its strategy to counter Mr. Kejriwal. “Her inclusion will impact Kejriwal directly,” a senior Delhi BJP leader said.
Another BJP leader said: “The party has not taken a view yet on declaring a chief ministerial candidate. The leadership will do what is best for everyone.” He admitted that the party would not want to forgo the “advantage of fighting under Modiji’s leadership.” Though Delhi is a small and partial State, the Assembly election here enjoys a disproportionate share in the overall perception battle that the Modi-Shah combine has been winning in other State elections since May 2014. “Delhi is important in Modi’s gradual plan of controlling State Assemblies. It also has symbolic importance because you can be in power in Delhi and yet not control the city,” said Prof. Balveer Arora, political scientist and former pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The party is also worried about losing for the fifth time in the national capital. The Delhi election also dominates air waves and social media. A news TV industry source said that Delhi-related news takes up as much as one-fourth of the air time and one-fifth of the viewership.
Both Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Bedi have more than a million followers each on Twitter and are equally vocal on TV. The BJP is worried because if it fails to win the election, the outcome could alter the course of its pan-India ascent and expansion plans.
“After Modi’s rally failed in Delhi, the BJP had to import Kiran Bedi and Shazia,” Congress campaign committee chief Ajay Maken said. “I have 40 years of administrative experience, I have come here to dedicate myself and my experience to Delhi,” Ms. Bedi said on Thursday.
On Friday and Saturday, she was spelling out her plan for “effectively governing Delhi.” Prof. Arora said by inducting Mr. Kejriwal’s former compatriots, the BJP is following “a sound political strategy because defections confuse the voter.”