Indira Gandhi's car: How Kiran Bedi is being wrongly vilified
What she did actually show us that she has guts.
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We grew up listening to stories of how a brave young woman IPS officer had dared to challan former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's car. But after Kiran Bedi joined politics, serious holes have been dug into that incident and la-affaire PM-car-lifting has been derided as an urban legend fed by a publicity hungry police officer. "Indira Gandhi wasn't even in the country at the time." "Kiran Bedi had nothing to do with challaning the PM's car." "She hogged all the limelight herself and edged the real hero out of the story." These are some of the charges that Bedi's opponents have thrown at her.
This morning I went for a walk at Lodhi Garden with retired ACP Nirmal Singh. As a strapping young sub-inspector, Nirmal was part of Kiran Bedi's team when she was DCP Traffic in the capital. At that time, Delhi did not have a joint commissioner of police for traffic. As DCP, Kiran Bedi was in-charge of the entire team. Here's what Nirmal says really happened in August 1982.
"The traffic department had taken a tough line against illegal parking in the city. On August 5, 1982, I got a call from Ramesh Handa who was the owner of a shop called Handa Seat Cover at the Outer Circle in Connaught Place near Minto Road. There were quite a few car repair shops in that area and the police had been coming down heavily on them for creating a traffic mess. Handa called me and told me, "Dum hai to aajao, gaadi aai hai uska challan karke dikhao". (If you have the guts, challan the car that has come for repairs today.)
Nirmal Singh says he reached CP to find that a white Ambassador with the number plate DHI-1817 had been parked illegally. Nirmal says he called out for the driver but the driver was nowhere to be seen. Shopkeepers told him that the car belonged to the PM's office. "I told them to have the car moved and gave them a warning that if I call the crane then a challan cannot be avoided." But the driver never emerged.
Soon after Ramesh Handa walked out and told Nirmal that he was willing to pay the fine if the sub-inspector had the guts to challan the car. Nirmal says he wrote on the challan that the shopkeeper claimed that the car belonged to the prime minister's office. After the incident, Nirmal briefed Kiran Bedi since this was a high profile matter. She told him, "Shahbash, you have done your job".
The boss may have been happy but the super bosses were hopping mad. An order was passed for Nirmal to be transferred to Palam Airport. Nirmal claims Bedi fought the pressure from the top and refused to sign the transfer orders.
"It is wrong to say that Kiran Bedi tried to hog the limelight and deny me credit. Whenever I was with her she would always introduce me as the person who lifted the PM's car. She never tried to claim that she lifted the car herself. And she stood up to pressure from the seniors to transfer me. This is what you expect from a good boss," says Nirmal.
Before she became the BJP's CM candidate Kiran Bedi's Twitter profile read, "Towed PM's car for traffic violation". Her critics say Bedi exaggerated her role in the entire incident and claimed credit for an act of bravery by her subordinate.
But Nirmal Singh doesn't feel that way. He says when someone in a team does something good the credit goes to the entire team and to the team leader. In the army, if an Infantry unit kills a terrorist, the commanding officer gets the credit, even if he wasn't the one who pulled the trigger on the Kalashnikov.
As leader of the team, Kiran Bedi deserves credit for creating an atmosphere, which gave the young sub-inspector the confidence to challan the PM's car. Even when after she came under pressure from her seniors, Bedi stood by her teammate and refused to transfer Nirmal to Palam. Her peers and critics may snigger but as DCP Traffic Bedi displayed a lot more spine than most other IPS officers who don the khaki uniform.