Updated: March 10, 2021 4:45:06 pm
Despite reservations expressed by some of its Delhi leaders, the BJP on Monday declared Kiran Bedi, who joined the party on January 15, as its chief ministerial candidate for the state elections on February 7.
“Kiran Bedi will be BJP’s CM candidate…the party will fight the elections under her leadership,” BJP president Amit Shah told reporters at a press conference, adding that the former IPS officer would contest from Krishna Nagar.
The announcement came after the party’s Central Election Committee met earlier on Monday, followed by a meeting of its Parliamentary Board that was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah.
With the announcement of Bedi’s name, the party has moved away from its recent practice of not naming a chief ministerial candidate before state elections, a strategy it followed last year in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Jammu and Kashmir.
According to party sources, the Bedi move was in response to the perceived re-emergence of AAP as a strong contender. Sources said that the party feared that anything less than a clear majority for it in Delhi would damage Modi’s image.
They added that the party was also worried by a recent finding that the Congress would lose much of its support base to the AAP which could mean “bad news” for the BJP.
“Some of the party leaders believe that going only with Modi as its face was too risky as we are not very sure of a clear majority,” said a BJP state leader.
In fact, a visibly irritated Shah refused to answer questions at the press conference on why Modi was not the party’s face for the Delhi elections.
The party chief also denied that there were any differences within the BJP on Bedi being announced as the CM candidate after it had emerged earlier in the day that the party had asked its leaders not to air their differences publicly and to put up a united face for the Delhi elections.
According to sources, Shah had even pulled up party MP Manoj Tiwari for his public remarks against Bedi.
Tiwari had said that Bedi should be treated like just another party worker, while senior party leader Jagadish Mukhi said that a campaign built around Modi would be the party’s best bet.
“We don’t need someone like a thaanedar (policeman). We need a leader who can take everyone along,” Tiwari was quoted as saying.
After being pulled up for his remarks, the Delhi North East MP toned down his opposition. “All these reports are completely wrong, we are very happy that Kiranji has joined BJP, we welcome her,” he said.
Mukhi had told The Sunday Express that the state unit was not consulted before taking Bedi into the party fold. On Monday, he said, “The strategy of the party in the elections in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra has been that the country has chosen Modiji for five years and that the expectations of people will only be fulfilled if the same party rules at the Centre as well as in states… Chalo chalein Modi ke saath would be the best option for the party.”
But later, Javadekar blamed the AAP for fuelling rumours against his party. “All MPs and MLAs are working with the sole aim to bring BJP to power…People were in a dilemma last time and delivered a fractured verdict. Now they are happy with the performance of the Modi government and will give BJP a two-thirds majority,” he said.
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