Monday, February 2, 2015

Ribeiro on Kiran Bedi

An old colleague, Julio Ribeiro, pens down his memories of BJP's Delhi CM nominee, Kiran Bedi.
An IPS officer, an old colleague is eying to become the next Chief Minister of Delhi. Kiran Bedi, a darling of the common man, particularly youth and women, has already started on her new role even before she is elected and sworn in. Knowing her I would think that she will have her eyes on the Prime Minister’s chair. Why not? If Theodore Roosevelt, the Police Commissioner of New York, could become President of the US, surely my ex-colleague can aspire for the most powerful job under our Constitution. 

I first met Kiran Bedi in Hyderabad when she joined the Indian Police Service as a probationer. The novelty of seeing a woman probationer had just struck me and other males in the service. Let me confess that I was impressed with her enthusiasm and ebullience. She had been a national level tennis player. The physical part of police training was not a problem with her and even at that stage one could sense a spark and a confidence that spoke of greater things to come.

I had an occasion many years later as Special Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs to ask Kiran to accept an assignment in the National Police Academy at Hyderabad. The Director of the Academy, A.A. Ali, wanted a woman officer on his staff since the intake of women IPS probationers was increasing year by year. She would have been a great asset in the shaping of our future police leadership. I was greatly disappointed when she said ‘No’ though eventually I did find a good substitute in the person of Manjari Jaruhar of the Bihar Cadre of the IPS. Manjari wore a sari and sported a ‘bindi’ on her forehead after duty hours, unlike Kiran who preferred masculine attire.
Kiran Bedi was not willing to leave Delhi; the city was her happy stomping ground. One reason could have been her daughter for whom she had managed to secure a medical seat, when she was briefly posted to Mizoram. I had heard some murmurs at that time that she had not played fair in appropriating a seat meant for Mizo tribals. I remember that Kiran put up a very spirited defense for her questionable decision. The ability to justify some wrongs will surely help her to further her career in politics.
My other recollection of her was when she was awarded the Magsaysay Award. I had been approached by a well-known businessman in Mumbai with Philippine contacts, based on his stint in the Asian Institute of Management in Manila, for a résumé of my work in the police for submission to the Magsaysay Award committee. The committee had decided that year to give one prize to a police officer from India and had narrowed the choice to two. I was warned that there was another candidate who had also been recommended.  It was only after her name was published that that I realized that the other candidate was my friend Kiran Bedi. I hastened to congratulate her. In her reply she told me she was going to form a Trust with the prize money and requested me to serve as a Trustee. I consented.
I did not hear further about the Trust till years later a television crew popped up at my door asking me to comment on Kiran’s travelling by air on economy class tickets but claiming business class fare from corporates inviting her for speaking engagements. The money gained thereby had been credited to the Trust. When the T.V. channel learnt that I was a Trustee (a fact that I had by then forgotten) they sought my views on her way of financing her charitable work. My reply was that I would not do what Kiran had done but since she had not diverted money for personal use it was only a technical default, but certainly not a crime.
What did strike me though about this entire episode was that Kiran ran the Trust on her own without involving other Trustees as would be expected. She had included my name as a Trustee as a mere formality. I had not been informed about meetings or decisions taken nor did I receive any reports on the work done by the Trust for years together till this allegation surfaced. This is Kiran all over. She likes being the sole boss.
Nobody can doubt Kiran Bedi’s integrity or capabilities. Her problem was that she attracted the jealousy and unspoken enmity of her seniors and her peers since she always hogged the limelight. Her style of functioning also disturbed the politicians then in power. They were perennially in the popularity business and did not like to be eclipsed by a mere police officer. They overlooked the fact that Kiran’s popularity was based on her proven track record of genuine service to the people.
Kiran is very passionate about whatever she does. But her propensity to become the centre of attraction might lead her into conflict with her new found colleagues in the BJP who will find the ground shifting under their feet. Knowing Kiran I can safely say that she is not going to change. She has already started her work as a Chief Minister though elections are a month away. This is typical Kiran; she has no time to waste. As she herself said she is in the ‘mission mode’ and she will remain in that mode for many more years to come.

Before I end, there is a word of thanks I must convey through this piece to the future Chief Minister of Delhi. When I was sent to the Punjab to fight the separatists, RK Laxman drew a front page cartoon in the Times of India a copy of which my friend Kiran procured from the cartoonist himself and presented to me as a token of her appreciation for “taking on the nation’s battle”.  I will not forget that gesture.

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