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Kiran Bedi: Policing, Activism and Now, Politics

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Kiran Bedi: Policing, Activism and Now, Politics

Kiran Bedi being greeted by BJP chief Amit Shah as she joined the party today.

New Delhi:  India's first woman IPS officer, Magsaysay award Winner, Asian lawn tennis champion and activist, Kiran Bedi, 65, stepped into the political arena today by joining the BJP.

Party president Amit Shah made it clear that she would be contesting elections, unleashing speculations that she would be pitted against Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal as the BJP's chief ministerial candidate in Delhi.

Ms Bedi's foray into politics comes in the wake of her association with Gandhian Anna Hazare's India Against Corruption movement.

Though earlier she had expressed a disinclination for politics, last year, in an interview to NDTV she admitted that she was ready to take the plunge.

Today, she said it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "inspirational leadership" that propelled her to join the BJP.

Union Minister Arun Jaitley, who was present at today's media conference, said Ms Bedi has an "image of credibility and she has been seen as a crusader".

That was the image the Anna movement, too, had banked on. The movement became a runaway hit with the middle classes, and in turn, helped push Mr Kejriwal, one of its leaders, to the chief ministership of Delhi. But the launch of AAP had also caused the first cracks in the Team Anna, with Mr Hazare himself and Ms Bedi opposing the formation of a political party.

Her advent in politics, thus, drew barbs from the Congress and caused eyebrows to lift in the Aam Aadmi Party.

But Ms Bedi is no stranger to controversy.

As a young officer of the traffic police, she was dubbed "Crane Bedi" for towing away illegally parked vehicles - including that of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

In 2007, superceded for a promotion, she quit the police force after long and well-appreciated tenure that included a spell at the United Nations in New York and a string of awards, among them the prestigious Magsaysay Award for her reforms at Delhi's Tihar Jail. It became a matter of debate, with Ms Bedi being criticized by a section for her exit.

"When I was overlooked for the police commissioner, I left because the work that I was given was not challenging enough," she said today.

Ms Bedi is also the founder of two non-profits -- Navjyoti and India Vision Foundation -- which work in the fields of education, vocational skills and healthcare for the rural and urban poor.

She has been voted India's most admired and most trusted woman by The Week and Readers Digest.

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