BJP's Delhi CM nominee Bedi skirts public debate with Kejriwal

The Bharatiya Janata Party's chief ministerial candidate for Delhi Kiran Bedi has accepted her former colleague and now opponent Arvind Kejriwal's challenge to a public debate – but with the rider that it should take place in the floor of the assembly.

Delhi goes to the polls on 7 February; and soon after Bedi officially joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP late last week declared her the party's official nominee for the CM's post.

With the Congress in disarray and other minor parties unlikely to get more than a handful of seats, it looks a straight contest between Bedi and Kejriwal, who heads the Aam Admi Party, which ruled Delhi for a brief 49 days without particularly covering itself in glory.

The two stood shoulder to shoulder during the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption protests. Kejriwal was the first to part ways to take the political route; Bedi has not been far behind. Meanwhile, their common mentor Hazare remains silent.

The debate between the two is more likely to take place in the social media than on TV or in public, as Bedi has rather cleverly diverted the issue to the state assembly – where everyone knows no meaningful debate can take place because of chaotic lawmakers.

Kejriwal tweeted today, "@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. 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.

In response, Bedi said the AAP chief believes "only in debates" while her focus is on delivery of services. ''I will debate with him on the floor of the house," she added.

Just four days after she joined the BJP, Bedi, a former cop and the first female Indian Police Service officer, was named the party's official CM candidate.

Those old enough might recall that she wielded a mean 'lathi' herself – as against lawyers peacefully protesting in Lucknow over judicial matters. She also got headlines as a reformer of the Indian prison system.

But now, she is clearly skirting the ''debate on issues'' that Kejriwal has demanded.

Bedi will not be in direct contest with the AAP chief, as the BJP has played it safe by fielding former student union leader Nupur Sharma from the New Delhi seat.

Kejriwal 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 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 in east Delhi, Kejriwal tweeted he is on his way to sign the papers to fight from the New Delhi constituency. Krishna Nagar is considered a BJP stronghold.