The Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to decide on its candidate for chief minister of Delhi at a meeting of its parliamentary committee headed by party president Amit Shah in the next couple of hours.
Bedi joined the BJP last week, along with a flurry of other politicians from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress. But unlike the likes of Shazia Ilmi and Vinod Kumar Binny, Bedi has a wide national and state-wide recognition. She was India's first woman police officer, received the Magsaysay award, and was active with AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal during Anna Hazare's rallies against corruption in 2012.
However, she has never fought an election before. Joining the BJP was her first step into politics. And if the BJP makes her the chief ministerial candidate, it might have a few disgruntled leaders who have been with the party for a long time and aspired for the top post.
Bedi herself has done a complete U-turn from the time she had walked along with Hazare and Kejriwal to demand a Lok Pal bill, and had made several statements and tweets against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who at that time was the chief minister of Gujarat. Today, she said "BJP has got the world's most beautiful face with it, i.e. Narendra Modi and his leadership. After that we are just stars who are revolving around him."
Kejriwal has said that Bedi's induction into the BJP shows the party is short of leaders. Party spokesman Ashutosh (who uses only one name) says that BJP simply has no one to match Kejriwal's popularity and stature. "The BJP has brought in an outsider as they do not have a leader to match Kejriwal’s stature. There is a serious leadership crisis in the BJP and they needed someone from outside to galvanise its party cadres," he said in an interview.
It does appear to be so. The BJP had captured power when Delhi got statehood, but then Congress won the subsequent election in 1998, under Sheila Dikshit, who led the party to two more consecutive wins. This spree was halted in elections held in December 2013, when the Congress was fighting a spate of corruption cases, and anti-incumbency was strong. AAP made a strong showing with 28 seats, and Kejriwal got the biggest win of all, defeating Dikshit and became chief minister with the support of the Congress. The BJP managed 31 seats but did not form a government.
Bedi is a face that is perhaps more recognized than any of their local leaders, which speaks about the party's low leadership strength. The Delhi unit of the BJP has several leaders who harbour chief ministerial ambition such as Harsh Vardhan, Vijay Goel, Jagdish Mukhi and Satish Upadhyay. But the party would rather push for Bedi than the older, more experienced politicians to try and match a clean image like that of Kejriwal, say party insiders.
It would be an interesting electoral battle if Bedi indeed is made the leader of the BJP. The decision will be known in a few hours from now.