An interesting three-cornered battle of rhetoric unfolded on Twitter and national television channels on Tuesday in the run up to the crucial Delhi assembly elections amidst a call for a US-style open debate between the main candidates, moderated and telecast live to voters.
Former Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal challenged Bharatiya Janata Party’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi to an open debate on Twitter. Bedi, India’s first woman officer from the Indian Police Service, was named BJP’s CM candidate last night after the party’s top leaders met in Delhi.
A former IPS officer, Bedi, who joined the BJP less than a week ago, will be the party's face in Delhi in the February 7 assembly polls, taking on her former colleague Kejriwal. She will contest from Krishna Nagar seat in east Delhi which was earlier held by Harsh Vardhan, the chief ministerial candidate in the December 2013 elections and now a union minister.
"Congrats 4 being nominated as BJP's CM candidate. I invite u 4 a public debate moderated by neutral person n telecast by all (sic)," Kejriwal tweeted.
.@thekiranbedi congrats 4 being nominated as BJP's CM candidate. I invite u 4 a public debate moderated by neutral person n telecast by all— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 20, 2015
Bedi did not directly respond to Kejriwal’s tweet but told news channels, "I accept his challenge. I'll take him on (in) a debate on the floor of the house. He believes in debate and I believe in delivery. I'm here for good governance."
Kejriwal did not stop at asking Bedi to spar with him in an open debate. He asked her to 'unblock' him on Twitter - a security option users are allowed by the social media site to screen offensive posts from handles they do not want on their notifications tab.
.@thekiranbedi Kiranji, i used to follow u on twitter. Now, u have blocked me on twitter. Kindly unblock me.— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 20, 2015
Bedi responded: "I blocked him more than a year back when he was spreading negativity. I blocked him because he was using unparliamentary language. I do not want my followers to be subjected to such a language," the IBNLive quoted her as saying.
The AAP is no stranger to the reach and impact of social platforms – they’ve used Twitter and Facebook extensively during the previous election, using it aggressively to campaign and build community-based support for their fledgling party.
Predictably, Kejriwal’s tweet prompted a barrage of jokes, including several offers from various users to host the debate.
This is what Twitter India’s Raheel Khursheed had to say.
The standup comedy handle All India Bakchod wanted to help. Badly.
And Kejriwal wasn’t averse.
Sensing an opportunity to take on the BJP in the city, Ajay Maken, Congress’ face for the Delhi polls, readily accepted Kejriwal’s challenge and said he was game.
Great!I am ready for a structured debate.Let people of
Delhi make a comparative assessment— Ajay Maken (@ajaymaken) January 20, 2015
The BJP hit back at Kejriwal and called it a battle of the 'Iron Lady vs the I-Run Man', alluding to the less than two-month term of Kejriwal before he quit as Delhi’s CM and fought the general elections against Narendra Modi from Varanasi in 2014.
Other Twitter users weighed in.
Kiran Bedi’s response.
Times for new kind of politics...from perineal accusations to constructive analysis. Not for power or position but largest good & service— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) January 20, 2015
Kejriwal on Monday termed the BJP as a "sinking ship" after it inducted Bedi to "save its face in the event of a defeat". He said the BJP will lose badly in the upcoming Assembly polls in spite of adopting "gimmicks" everyday to avert its defeat.
"BJP knows that it is going to lose this election very badly and this is why this party has finally roped in Kiran Bedi so that she can be made scapegoat."
Bedi has been an anti-corruption activist, a former tennis player and her innings in Delhi Police is still widely remembered in the city. She initiated prison reforms in the Tihar Central Jail when she was heading it.
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.
Kejriwal will file his nomination from the New Delhi constituency Tuesday, the party said. The nomination will be preceded by a roadshow to be kick-started by Kejriwal from the Valmiki Mandir in the heart of the capital where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched his Clean India Campaign in Oct 2014. The roadshow - during which Kejriwal will outline AAP's vision - will end at Jantar Mantar.
In the 2013 assembly polls, Kejriwal had defeated the then Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit from New Delhi by nearly 26,000 votes. In these polls, his Congress opponent is former minister Kiran Walia.
(With Inputs From Agencies)