Kejriwal challenges Bedi to debate, BJP sidesteps, Maken ready

ArrayNew Delhi (IANS): BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi Tuesday sidestepped AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s challenge for a debate on issues facing the national capital but Congress general secretary Ajay Maken expressed his willingness for a structured discussion among the three politicians who are leading the campaign of their parties for the assembly polls.

Kejriwal threw the challenge for a debate a day after Bedi was named the Bharatiya Janata Party’s chief ministerial candidate.

The BJP retorted by terming Kejriwal “I run man” and Bedi “Iron Lady”.

The battle for Delhi intensified Tuesday, following clarity about the campaign leaders of the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress.

Kejriwal, a former Delhi chief minister, led a road show in central Delhi but could not file his nomination papers as he could not reach the district magistrate’s office on time.

Bedi held a rally in Krishna Nagar, the seat she is contesting from.

Kejriwal said an informed debate between the three contenders to the post of chief minister will help the people of Delhi make an informed choice.

“Ajay Maken, Kiran Bedi and I, all three should have a debate so that people can make an informed choice about selecting their chief minister,” he told reporters.

He had earlier conveyed his challenge to Bedi for a debate through a tweet.

“Congrats 4 being nominated as BJP’s CM candidate. I invite u 4 a public debate moderated by neutral person and telecast by all,” Kejriwal said.

Kejriwal, who is leading the AAP campaign, also said Bedi has blocked him on social networking site Twitter.

Bedi said she was willing to take part in a debate but in the Delhi assembly as her focus was on “delivery” and not on just discussion.

“I accept the challenge but I will do it only in the Delhi assembly. Right now, I am focusing on delivery, while debate is all he (Kejriwal) has been doing,” Bedi told reporters.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra called Kejriwal’s move a publicity gimmick.

“The battle in Delhi is between Iron Lady and I-run-man — a man who has been on the run for (the post of) CM to PM,” Patra said, referring to Kejriwal’s defeat in Varanasi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He said Kejriwal stands for “drama, dharna and debate”, while the BJP stands for “development, democracy and delivery”.

Patra said the people of Delhi will decide if they want another dramatic debate or development and delivery.

“This debate is a gimmick to gain some cheap publicity. The AAP is all about publicity, they want to use Kiran ji for their publicity,” Patra said.

Referring to Kejriwal speaking about Bedi blocking him on Twitter, Patra said: “Kiran ji blocked Kejriwal on Twitter one year back. He (Kejriwal) should have approached her then.”

Maken, who is the chief of the Congress campaign, said he was prepared for a structured debate between the three leaders.

“This is not Kejriwal’s idea, a TV channel had invited us for debate. I welcome the idea of such a debate,” Maken said.

Bedi, 65, joined the BJP Jan 15 and was named its chief ministerial nominee Monday night.

Both Kejriwal and Bedi were part of the anti-corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare.

Kejriwal is slated to contest from New Delhi and Maken from Sadar Bazar.

In the 2013 elections, the AAP won 28 seats and finished a close second to the BJP which bagged 31 seats. The Congress could win only eight seats.

Elections to the 70-member Delhi assembly will be held Feb 7.