The enigma of Jethmalani

The wily lawyer, not known to be cowed down by suspension threats, is sure to have the last laugh

ajay

Ajay Singh | November 26, 2012



I am three decade younger than octogenarian Ram Jethmalani and still do not qualify to be called young. Hence forgive me if I recount the past while exploring strange relationship between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the eminent lawyer. In 1989, the role of the visual media was confined to occasional photographs captured in cameras by intrepid press photographers. One such photograph that still rankles my memory was that of a harried Jethmalani with torn clothes after he was booed and jeered by a group of hoodlums outside the residence of Chandrashekhar that year. Soon after the election results were out, Jethmalani was staging a dharna outside Chandrashekhar’s house to force the veteran leader to opt out of the race for the prime ministership. But for Chandrashekhar and his supporters from Ballia, who addressed him as “adhyaksh-ji”, democratic dissent and niceties were good words to be used for rhetoric but rarely practised.

Jethmalani probably did not know or realise this and paid the price when he was literally mauled on the streets. The brilliant lawyer could not do anything to the faceless ruffians, and Chandrashekhar never apologised for the incident.

The episode bears relevance in the present context of Jethmalani being suspended from the BJP after he demanded the resignation of BJP president Nitin Gadkari and raised objection over the party’s resistance to the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as the new CBI chief. Those who know Jethmalani would vouch for the fact that the irrepressible and brilliant lawyer can hardly be cowed down by such humiliations as suspension.

Apparently, Jethmalani's relationship with the BJP has always been tenuous and hinged on mutual expediency. As late as 2004, Jethmalani contested the Lok Sabha election against Atal Bihari Vajpayee after he was sacked as the law minister for speaking against the then chief justice of India AS Anand.

Was it conceivable within the BJP to go against Vajpayee and return as the party MP on his own terms? Of course, Jethmalani is not an ordinary lawyer. His services were sought when Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi found himself hemmed in. Jethmalani was roped in on the advice of RSS ideologue S Gurumurhy, who along with Jethmalani fiercely pursued the Bofors scandal in the 1980s. And Jethmalani asked for his price in return: a Rajya Sabha seat from Rajasthan. Given Jethmalani’s closeness with party veteran LK Advani, his wish was immediately granted.

Jethmalani's decision to take up the brief for Gujarat proved to be a turning point in cases against Modi. His hectoring mannerism in the supreme court might have raised many eyebrows but he managed to bring a sense of relief to his high-profile client. Those in the BJP who thought to use Jethmalani’s services to their advantage are blissfully unaware of the past. Gadkari and his acolytes cannot be faulted for not knowing the rules of using a loose cannon which can shoot even its holder. That is exactly what has happened with the BJP while dealing with Jethmalani. The wily lawyer is sure to have the last laugh.

 

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