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Kiran Bedi joins BJP; Kejriwal says happy for her, Cong says "gross political opportunism"

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New Delhi (Jan. 15, 2015): Former top cop Kiran Bedi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and in the presence of senior party leaders Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah on Thursday. Indications were that Bedi will be effectively the party's face for the Delhi assembly elections against Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and Congress' Ajay Maken.

The party, however, will not announce her name as its official chief ministerial candidate as it plans to continue its strategy of going into the elections with Modi's promise of development. Party president Shah confirmed that Bedi will contest the February 7 election on BJP ticket, but said the decision on BJP's CM for Delhi will be taken by the party parliamentary board after the election results are announced.

The decision to induct Bedi at a high profile function at BJP's national headquarters was taken in the last 48-hours and came right from the very top, said party sources. The BJP was wary of Kejriwal coming out with a 'disclosure a day' until the day of the voting against one or the other Delhi unit BJP leader.

On Wednesday, the AAP leader had alleged "conflict of interest" by Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay and vice president Ashish Sood because of their association with companies that installed electricity meters for Delhi's power distribution companies. Today, AAP came out with more "evidence" against Upadhyay, while he filed a defamation case against Kejriwal.

BJP strategists believe that the battle for Delhi, despite the 'Modi wave' being intact, is likely to be a closely fought one. It fears AAP's allegations against some of its Delhi unit leader could dent its middle class votes. Bedi, with her image of a honest former cop and anti-corruption crusader, will blunt AAP's line of attack.

Bedi, along with Kejriwal, was a key member of social activist Anna Hazare led anti-corruption Jan Lokpal movement of 2011-12. Bedi had refused to join AAP when it was launched in end-2012.

Kejriwal tweeted: "I have been fond of Kiran Bedi ji. I always tried to convince her that she should join politics. I am happy she did today."

BJP sources said important former AAP leaders like disgruntled former AAP MLA Surinder Koli and Shazia Ilmi were likely to join the party in the next few days. Ilmi is likely to campaign for the party, although the BJP wants her to contest against Kejriwal from his New Delhi constituency.

Over the years, Bedi has seldom made a secret of her wish to join the BJP and be declared the party's chief ministerial candidate. However, local leadership had been protesting any move to foist an 'outsider' on them.

Party president Shah tried to quell any such speculation today. He said Bedi's joining the BJP has strengthened its Delhi unit, and everybody in the party unit is "happy" at the development. Shah said her long experience as an administrator will be a source of strength for a BJP government in Delhi.

On her part, Bedi credited Prime Minister Modi's "inspirational leadership" that moved her to joing BJP. She said her 40-years of experience as an administrator will now be at the disposal of the people of Delhi.

Bedi spoke about her vision to provide Delhi a stable, honest, visionary and corruption free government to make Delhi the real "dil (heart)" of India. "I know how to work and also know how to get work done," Bedi said, adding that a BJP-run Delhi Government will conduct social audits to have the participation of citizens into decision making.

Bedi is a 1972 batch IPS officer, a Magsaysay award winner for her prison reforms and a former Director General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D). She took voluntary retirement in 2007, after an officer two batches her junior was appointed the Commissioner of Delhi Police.

Shah said the seat from which Bedi was likely to contest was yet to be decided. Bedi is said to be not keen to contest against her former comrade Kejriwal.