Jethmalani’s roller-coaster ride in politics

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi with Ram Jethmalani at a meeting with lawyers in New Delhi. Jethmalani passed away at his home in Delhi on Sunday, Sep 08, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Ram Jethmalani, the veteran jurist who passed away on Sunday at a ripe age of 95, never hesitated in calling a spade a spade, an attribute that perhaps best describes his stint in politics.

Jethmalani’s first brush with politics was in 1962 when he campaigned for the then defense minister and Congress candidate V K Krishna Menon, who was in the fray against former Congress president and Socialist Party’s Acharya Kripalani. His subsequent attempts to join the Congress and contest elections did not come to fruition, prompting him to turn to the Shiv Sena and the then to the Jan Sangh for support.

Jethmalani made waves with his sharp criticism of the Emergency imposed by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

He went into self-exile to Canada after an arrest warrant was issued against him for speaking against the Emergency.

In the Lok Sabha elections in 1977, Jethmalani created history by defeating then law minister H R Gokhale from the then Bombay Northwest seat as a Janata Party candidate but missed on a ministerial berth.

Jethmalani retained the seat in the 1980 elections as a BJP candidate, which began his long stint with the party. He first entered the Rajya Sabha in 1988 with the support of the then Karnataka chief minister Ramkrishna Hegde.

Jethmalani was appointed as the law, justice and company affairs minister in the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1996. Two years later, when Vajpayee became prime minister again, Jethmalani was made the minister for urban affairs and employment. In 1999, he was again sworn in as the Union law minister.

However, this stint was short-lived due to Jethmalani’s run-ins with the then chief justice of India A S Anand and attorney general Soli Sorabjee.

Vajpayee asked Jethmalani to resign and appointed Arun Jaitley in the place.

Jethmalani owed his ministerial berth to Advani, whom he had represented in the Jain Hawala case and ensured his acquittal. Miffed at his ouster from the government, Jethmalani contested the 2004 Lok Sabha elections against Vajpayee from Lucknow, but was defeated.

Over the years Jethmalani came close to the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and BJP leader Amit Shah, who were facing legal troubles,

He ensured his return to the Rajya Sabha as a BJP member in 2010. This stint with the BJP was again short-lived and he was expelled from the party in 2013 over his corruption allegations against senior BJP leaders.

In 2015, Jethmalani unequivocally supported the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance against the BJP in the Bihar Assembly elections, which along with his friendship with RJD boss Lalu Prasad, earned him his current seat in the Rajya Sabha.

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