Social activist and BJP’s Delhi chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi admits politics is a dirty game that will take decades to clean up in India.
“Yes, there will be a change (in politics in our country) when we change the way we fight elections, when we change the way we choose our candidates, when we change the way we campaign and when the expectations of voters changes,” Bedi said in reply to actor Sonam Kapoor’s question during a panel discussion at Top 30 Under 30, the annual Hindustan Times Youth Forum, in Chandigarh on Monday night.
With three-time member of Parliament Anurag Thakur listening in rapt attention, a bubbly Sonam asked Bedi, who had lost the Delhi elections to friend-turned-rival Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal after a bitter campaign, “What if a young woman were to join politics? Do you think politics is a dirty game? Will it ever change in India?” Before Bedi could reply, Sonam clarified that she had no intention of joining politics but admired the first woman Indian Police Service officer and wanted to know after her political experience. “Politics is one profession my father (and actor) Anil Kapoor didn’t want for his children,” Sonam said as Thakur smiled on.
Raising a voice for women in Bihar
Bedi chose to make an observation before replying to the question. She said she had tweeted two days ago that it was the women of Bihar who had powered Nitish Kumar’s return as chief minister for the third time yet they had gone widely unrepresented in his cabinet with only two woman ministers. “Did any TV network, newspaper or anyone on Twitter raise a voice for the women of Bihar? Was it debated? And the Bihar chief minister chose an inexperienced person who is not even a matriculate as his deputy!” she said, clarifying it was her observation and not a political statement.
The audience was in splits as she went on to answer Sonam’s question. “At the moment, politics is a game of unethical behaviour, falsehood, criminality and corruption. Imagine Phoolan Devi could win an election sitting in jail! Yes, it will take a few more decades to clean up the political system,” said the former top cop, who won the Magsaysay award for reforms she initiated in Tihar Jail.
Political governance training for leaders
Ironically, leadership is still an inheritance in the world’s largest democracy. Bedi reiterated this by saying, “There is a qualification for every profession except politics. Do we train our youth to lead the country? Is there any institution that offers management in political governance? Do our young leaders know the law or finances? The day development takes over, voters will becoming discerning and question corruption and injustice. Literacy and education will make the difference.”
Admitting that she admired Bedi for her courage, Sonam sighed and said, “Otherwise, politics would have been a beautiful profession for the idealistic youth to initiate positive change and make a difference.”
Social media mirror that gives insight
Asked what she thought about the fickle social media that trolled her after the Delhi defeat, Bedi said, “I take things as they come and have learnt from them. Social media offers an insight into human nature. It’s like a mirror that reflects and gives insight. Everyone on Twitter or Facebook has a reason to be there. Someone is there for sharing information, entertainment or friendship. My purpose is to teach, share and be informed.”
Everybody not cut out for uniform
Replying to a question posed by actor Jimmy Shergill on the disenchantment of the armed forces among today’s youth, Bedi said, “Patriotism cannot be taught in college or university. The love for the country is inculcated at a tender age in school when a child is encouraged to play sports, does social work and takes pride in the uniform of the National Cadet Corps (NCC). It is a passion that is ignited. Unfortunately, there are no marks for this so parents don’t encourage children to play or serve the nation. Their focus is only on early employment whether through medicine or engineering. Nothing wrong, but humanities don’t get the attention they should.”
Stay determined, manage time, Bedi urges youth
In her message to the youth while honouring the achievers along with chief guest and legendary athlete Milkha Singh, Kiran Bedi said, “Determination and will power are all it takes. When I was studying political science at Panjab University before qualifying for the Indian Police Service, I wouldn’t waste a minute. My routine was packed with lawn tennis (she was the national women’s champion), athletics and academics.” She urged the youth to make the most of their time.
She recalled in gratitude how Milkha Singh and his wife Nirmal Kaur, a national-level volleyball player, who were the administrators of the Punjab sports department at that time, opened the doors to all tennis training facilities in Chandigarh as she practised the game.