New Delhi: Responding to a growing controversy around an incident that elevated her to cult status and almost made her an urban legend, Kiran Bedi, the BJP's presumptive chief minister for Delhi, today said she did not personally tow away India Gandhi's wrongly parked car; it was an officer in her team who did it.
"Do you expect a DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) to be towing away cars? It is my unit which is to do its job, it was the unsparing policy I followed as DCP, Traffic," the former Indian Police Service officer said on NDTV's show 'The Delhi Townhall' ahead of elections in the capital.
In 1982, an ambassador car that belonged to then prime minister Indira Gandhi's office was parked at the wrong spot and towed away by sub-inspector Nirmal Singh. Mrs Gandhi was abroad at the time. When word got out, Kiran Bedi, as the officer in charge of traffic, came to be known as the cop who challenged Indira Gandhi and soon earned the nickname "Crane Bedi".
Ahead of the February 7 polls in Delhi, the incident has been used by political rivals as an example of Kiran Bedi taking credit for someone else's bravery. They have accused her of "myth-making"
"It is my job as a leader to see that my officers dare to do their duty and they are fully protected and they are rewarded and they follow the policy of no discrimination," Ms Bedi told NDTV, pointing out that Nirmal Singh was never transferred or punished. "It was my duty to stand by him, and I did."
On social media, her opponents referred to a previous biographical profile ( later changed ) on the micro blogging site Twitter that claimed she was the officer who towed a PM's car. Her supporters say her personal website has always credited Nirmal Singh by name.
The other aspect of the controversy relates to the charge by Ms Bedi that she was "punished" for taking on Indira Gandhi. She was transferred to Goa seven months after the 'car-towing" incident.
When NDTV asked her how this qualified as "punishment," given the gap between the incident and the transfer, she said, "The government in power needed me till the Asian Games. After that they transferred me. I told them my daughter needs medical care. I need to be in Delhi as she was being treated in AIIMS. They didn't hear me, that is how it became a punishment posting," she said.
Confronting the questions that have been raised by rivals about her career and her decision to quit the force after being denied a promotion, Ms Bedi declared, that she had no regrets "My past is an asset. I feel only gratitude for it."