Apology would’ve added to Kiran’s stature
Having known Kiran Bedi for nearly three decades, I can put it down on an affidavit that she’s a person of high integrity. As a police officer, her bravery outshone some of her male peers at the prime of her career. Quite fresh in my mind are her 1978 images of single-handedly taking on a bunch of Akali swashbucklers with just a baton near India Gate.
That’s when she became a national icon from being a role-model for countless Indian women as the country’s first woman IPS officer. Along the way, she earned many sobriquets — ranging from Iron Butterfly to Crane-Bedi — for her very doughty way of policing and irreverence of recalcitrant politicos. Authority did not deter her, nor, ironically, discipline. Even the seniors who were fond of her, at times found her to be too whimsical which could be categorized as insubordination in a uniformed force.
But Kiran mostly had her way on the strength of her celebrity and the high moral ground she occupied in popular perception. It’s for this reason perhaps that she failed to say sorry and came up with facile explanations in the face of charges that she claimed higher reimbursements from host NGOs while availing from state-run airlines the rebate she’s entitled as a gallantry award recipient.
In letting her ego overtake the good sense she possesses in plenty, Kiran forgot a cardinal principle: one shouldn’t merely be fair and honest but also perceived to be so. By being cussed and unapologetic, she slipped low in the esteem of her myriad admirers who’d have forgiven her in no time had she accepted having committed an unintentional wrong without gaining personally from inflated invoices. The money so accrued went to her NGO and was used for visiting voluntary organizations incapable of picking up her travel expenses.
Kiran said all this without any expression of remorse. That’s why she appears to be losing the perceptional battle. Compare what’s now happening with the all round disdain for the notice she received for breach of parliamentary privilege after her Ramlila maidan “purdah act” poking fun at the political class. Her moral high was as much evident in the national media’s tepid response to a whisper campaign recalling her daughter’s 1992 admission to a Delhi medical college from the Mizoram quota while she was a DIG in that state. The special concession was meant for the natives and Kiran faced street protests over her action in Aizwal at the time.
Parents do go to extreme lengths to secure good career prospects for their children. One could reason therefore that Kiran allowed the mother in her have the better of the police officer. The argument was debatable but nobody took it up with any gusto, dismissing the insinuations as being prompted by the government that was at the receiving end of Team Anna’s campaign against corruption.
The tide has turned primarily on account of Kiran’s failure to accept upfront her mistake. Under pressure from fellow trustees in her NGO, India Vision Foundation, she has decided to return the excess money charged from NGOs who were her host. But that’s too little, too late. Yes or no? Let’s debate.