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The not-so-unique case of Kapil Sibal brand of lawyer-politicians

by | May 26, 2022 | India

is the exit of Kapil Sibal from the Congress a mere a blip in the grand old party's fortunes, but another case of a lawyer encashing a favour?
Kapil Sibal

New Delhi: Kapil Sibal is not the first and hardly likely to be the last individual to have successfully and simultaneously straddled the dual worlds of Law and Politics.

Within months of the end of his current term in Parliament’s upper house, Sibal on Wednesday filed his Rajya Sabha nomination in Lucknow in the presence of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav – whose side he had pleaded in the case relating to the name and symbol of the Samajwadi Party. Earlier, Sibal was also said to have been close to Akhilesh’s father Mulayam Singh Yadav. A member of the rebel G-23 group, Sibal announced that he had resigned from the grand old party and that he would be contesting the elections as an Independent — with the support of the Samajwadi Party.

Lawyer-politicians have dominated the political spectrum since the country’s Independence: From Mahatma Gandhi to Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Jawaharlal Nehru or Dr. BR Ambedkar. In the last two decades, a different category has emerged: Individuals who have gained political prominence because of their active law practice. As Sibal has himself admitted, he owes his entry into Parliament to RJD chief Lalu Prasad — on whose behalf he had been arguing the fodder scam cases. The late Ram Jethmalani flitted across political parties including the BJP, Janata Dal, Pavitra Hindustan Kazakhanm and the RJD and was also elected Rajya Sacha member with the support of the Shiv Sena.

Those falling in the same category from the Congress stable include P Chidambaram and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Singhvi, in fact, had been elected to the Rajya Sabha with the support of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. Senior Lawyer RK Anand was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2000 during the period of the NDA government and later contested two Lok Sabha elections: The first on a Congress ticket in 2004 from the South Delhi constituency, attempting a second bid in 2014 from the Faridabad constituency on the Indian National Lok Dal ticket.

Disgruntled BJP leader Dr Subramanium Swamy has similarly been associated with different political parties: From the Janata Party to the Bhartiya Jan Sangha to the BJP – and has continued to dabble with politics, teaching and legal practice at the same time. Subramanium Swamy does not have a law degree. He calls himself a de facto lawyer, since he has filled and fought several cases.

Individuals do undertake midcourse changes in their professions, while some even have the capacity and skill-sets to work across forums with felicity. Little harm with that. Ethical questions can only arise when a Rajya Sabha nomination begins to be viewed as a return gift by political leaders.

Srinanda Jha
Srinand Jha
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Journalist by accident, rail, travel and political buff by choice - dissenter by compulsion. Interested in policy and governance.