India

Kiran Bedi: India's BJP names Delhi chief minister candidate

Kiran Bedi in Delhi on 19 Jan 2015 Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption Kiran Bedi has promised good governance and to make Delhi safer for women

India's governing BJP party has named former senior policewoman Kiran Bedi as its candidate for chief minister in upcoming Delhi elections.

The city will vote on 7 February and counting is due on 10 February.

Ms Bedi will challenge the former chief minister and anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Delhi has been without a government for a year after Mr Kejriwal resigned when his anti-corruption bill was blocked.

Since then, the state has been governed directly by the federal authorities.

"Today the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] parliamentary board met... and decided that Kiran Bedi will fight for the BJP in the coming Delhi election," party president Amit Shah told reporters at a late-night press conference on Monday.

"She will be the chief ministerial candidate," he added.

In her first comments since joining the BJP, Ms Bedi has promised good governance and to make Delhi safer for women.

Ms Bedi, 65, was the first woman to join the Indian police service in 1972 and held several senior positions, working in traffic, prison management and drug control, and later serving as a UN peacekeeping adviser.

She attracted global attention when she headed Delhi's notorious Tihar Jail, where she introduced yoga and literacy classes for inmates.

Ms Bedi and Mr Kejriwal worked together during the anti-corruption campaign, led by social activist Anna Hazare, but the two have had a falling out in recent months.

Mr Kejriwal congratulated her on her nomination and challenged her to a public debate.

Image copyright Tweet

Ms Bedi said she accepted the challenge, but said she would debate him "on the floor of the house".

The AAP did not do well in last summer's general election, but in recent weeks Mr Kejriwal has once again emerged as the major challenge to the BJP's electoral hopes in Delhi.

The BJP was the single largest party in the 70-member state assembly in the December 2013 election when the party won 31 seats and one seat was won by its ally the Shiromani Akali Dal.

But because the BJP fell short of a majority in the assembly, Mr Kejriwal formed a government with support from the Congress party. The AAP had 28 seats while the Congress had just eight.

Mr Kejriwal resigned on 14 February after 49 days in office after opposition politicians blocked his bill, which would have created an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

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