An Open Letter to Ram Jethmalani

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Dear Jethmalani-jee:

I had learnt a long time ago that nothing should surprise in politics. Yet, I was shocked and dismayed to see that an eminent lawyer and a national public figure of your stature would approach a politician like Lalu Yadav to stay in the Rajya Sabha.

The newspaper reports suggest that you and Kapil Sibal of the Congress party sent feelers to Lalu Yadav to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha from the RJD quota. It was definitely not a request to you from the other side.

Let me relate a personal note. Way back in 1977 when you had won a Lok Sabha seat from Bombay right after the Emergency, I was in a huge crowd that had greeted you in front of the Jantar Mantar (New Delhi) office of the Janata Party. I still feel the touch of a warm handshake with you and recall your polite bow before the public with folded hands.

I was then a JP movement activist and a graduate student of Delhi University having been driven out of Bihar following the excesses of the Emergency.

I also remember being a part of the student group from JNU which had organized your speeches on the campus in the 80's.

As an elder statesman, you had then admonished us to learn lessons from history and be a spokesperson of the voiceless. You wanted us to be a ruthless critic of the government that be. You were a role model for the millions of young Indian students who wanted the rule of law and human rights to be established not only in India but all over the world.

In recent years also, you didn't hesitate to call a spade a spade even if that meant your suspension from the BJP. You spoke against Narendra Modi and pursued corruption cases against the high and mighty like P. Chidambaram of the Congress party. Your persona inspired people to legally fight against the system.

It's, therefore, quite baffling to see you making sycophantic gesture to Lalu Yadav for a comfortable seat in the Rajya Sabha. Your credentials as a legal luminary and a statesman place you on the pedestal that can never be matched by the likes of Lalu, Nitish, Mulayam, Mamata, Mayawati, Jaylalitha or for that matter, by Narendra Modi, Sonia or Rahul Gandhi. You were too big, in our opinion, for a party or a position.

However, by your willingness to pay political court to Lalu Yadav, you have unfortunately let down millions of people like us who are relentless in their resolve to make democracies free of corruption, to introduce justice and fair play in public life and install rule of law through non-violent means shedding all biases or discrimination.

May I ask you: Did you care about your image when you were asked to share the RS seats with Lalu's daughter whose educational or political career is founded on fraud and nepotism? Didn't you know that you would be a Rajya Sabha member belonging to a party headed by a court-convicted felon out of jail on bail and that your status, like other legislators, would be of a courtier and nothing else?

Do you not notice that Lalu continues to rub insult into the pride of the gullible people of Bihar and undermines their sense of judgment? Who will deny induction of a behind-the-bar, sentence-serving criminal as a "national" executive member of the RJD isn't a typical example of institutionalization of crime in Bihar? Numerous criminals thrive under Lalu's patronage. Your warming up to him has almost given legitimacy to his way of socio-political code of conduct.

I trust as a judicial scholar you know the duty of a lawyer is to assist the court in the dispensation of justice and not essentially in the exoneration of the client at all cost. In any other democracy around the world, Lalu would have been serving his time in the jail.

Therefore, to be a lawyer of an accused party is one thing, but to get sheltered in the political wings of a criminal-political operative is quite another.

Referring to your ripe age, you had once said in an interview that you felt like a passenger sitting in the waiting lounge for a flight that had been delayed. You clearly indicated the short-span of every one's life within which a few outstanding works must be completed. That must have been an inspiration to millions of Indians.

Very sadly, at the fag end of your life, you have wiped out the effects of all the accomplishments you built up in a life-time.

Let me end on an optimistic note: Now, since you have persuaded yourself to be one of the lackeys of Lalu Yadav and since we can't shame you into doing otherwise, we expect you to go into his family-owned party circle, watch his operation and then summon up enough courage to have his party reformed from within.

Your formal infusion in the cadre of a party universally seen as promoters of crime, social enmity, corruption and disorder must be helpful for the party and eventually for the country's democracy. We will wait for the day you are kicked out of the party where you should be a great misfit.

With utter disappointment and high regards,

Yours,

Binoy Shanker Prasad


Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.

Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.

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