Battle for Delhi: Kejriwal challenges Kiran Bedi for debate, Cong's Maken says I will

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 20, 2015 15:20 IST

The race before the upcoming Delhi assembly polls seemed to be heating up with Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal daring Bharatiya Janata Party's Kiran Bedi on Tuesday for a public debate and Congress leader Ajay Maken jumping into the arena.

While the saffron party's chief ministerial candidate said she "will debate him on the floor of the house", Maken said he is ready for a "structured debate" with leaders of rival political parties ahead of the Delhi assembly polls.

Through a tweet, tagging both Kejriwal and Bedi, Maken said, "Great! I am ready for a structured debate. Let people of Delhi make a comparative assessment."

"This will be a healthy tradition. I believe a structured debate should take place in a mutually accepted TV channel or agency moderated by a mutually accepted anchor," said Maken.

Maken, who is also the party's campaign committee chief, said a debate will enable the leadership of various parties to spell out their vision to the public by answering "difficult questions".

"I think this is the best way for the leadership to answer difficult questions that are raised and spell out their vision to the public in the age of internet and social media," he said, adding at least "2-4 such debates" should be held.

Neither Kejriwal nor Bedi has responded to his offer yet.

Kejriwal had challenged BJP's Bedi for a public debate earlier in the day.

Once upon a time in Delhi: Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal with anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. (AFP Photo)

"@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," Kejriwal tweeted.

"It will be a good initiative for democracy if there is a debate between us on different issues. People vote in the name of religion and caste... They are not aware of issues. The debate, around 1-2 hours long should be on concrete issues," said Kejriwal.

Responding to Kejriwal's challenge, Bedi said the AAP chief believes "only in debates" while her focus is on delivery of services.

"Arvind believes only in debates whereas I believe in delivery of services. I will debate with him on the floor of the House," the former Indian Police Service officer said.

Four days after she joined the BJP, Bedi was named the party's CM candidate for Delhi late on Monday in a break from the party's practice of not naming the candidate for top posts in states.

The announcement was made during a press conference addressed by party president Amit Shah.

Bedi will not be in direct contest with the AAP chief with BJP fielding former DUSU president Nupur Sharma from the New Delhi seat. HT was the first to report that Sharma may take on Kejriwal.

Kejriwal, who is very active on social media, also asked Bedi to "unblock" him on Twitter.

"@thekiranbedi Kiranji, i used to follow u on twitter. Now, u have blocked me on twitter. Kindly unblock me," he also tweeted.

Bedi hit back at Kejriwal saying she blocked him as he was "spreading negativity".

"I blocked him 15 months back when he called himself an anarchist. He was spreading negativity. Didn't want my four million followers to see negativity... It was a polluting account," said Bedi.

While Bedi will file her nomination for the Delhi polls on Wednesday from Krishna Nagar seat -- a BJP stronghold -- in east Delhi. Kejriwal too will submit his the papers for the New Delhi constituency on the same day. Kejriwal was supposed to complete the process on Tuesday, but the AAP leader was delayed during a mega road show.

Watch: Kejriwal congratulates Kiran Bedi, invites her for public debate

Bedi and Kejriwal were both members of Team Anna during social activist Anna Hazare's campaign for jan lokpal bill. They fell out over Kejriwal's decision to launch a political party and Bedi has been a staunch critic of the AAP leader since then.

In its first reaction after the announcement, Kejriwal's party had said Bedi is not a challenge to the AAP and BJP's choice will have an adverse effect on its rank and file.

"BJP has made Kiran Bedi the chief ministerial candidate so that she could be made a scapegoat as the party was not confident of its victory because of AAP's growing popularity and increasing support base. Bedi is not a challenge for AAP," senior AAP leader Somnath Bharti had said.

Delhi goes to the polls on February 7 and the votes will be counted on February 10.

(With PTI inputs)

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