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Will Markandey Katju take up Politics or is he in already?

Markandey Katju is possibly the most vocal chairman that the Press Council of India has ever had. His acerbic remarks are lapped up by the media as readable stuff. He does not hesitate to cross swords with people he chooses to comment on. Is he a judge who will go places because he does not hesitate to say what he wishes to say?

There have been great legal luminaries, who have wrapped up their words in the finest prose, but these niceties are not for him. He will not flinch from raising hackles, nor would he bother to take on anyone whether he or she has crossed his path or not. Does he have political ambitions and would these be realised when the time is ripe?

The latest to receive his attention is Narendra Modi, who dreams of becoming the prime minister after his recent victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections. Modi thinks he has won because Gujarat has set up a signpost for development in spite of certain large parts being arid in Saurashtra and Kutch. He also believes that the people of Gujarat are prospering with him as the chief minister.

But Katju is not concerned with those points. He thinks that what happened in Godhra ‘is still a mystery’ and finds it ‘hard to believe that Modi had no hand in 2002’. These statements made in an article written by Katju have been contested by the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, who has accused the retired Supreme Court judge of playing politics while holding a statutory job.

Katju was indeed entitled to having political views, but not entitled to playing politics. If he wished to do so and thank those who gave him a job after retirement, he should resign from the august and quasi-judicial office which required him to be fair, impartial and politically neutral. He had been critical of Opposition ruled states, Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal. Katju has been quick to reply and demanded that Jaitley should resign from public life and as leader of Opposition. He insisted that Jaitley had twisted facts as he had not hesitated to write strong letters to the Congress chief minister of Maharashtra over the arrest of two girls for a comment in a Facebook post after the death of the Shiv Sena boss, Bal Thackeray.

In a veiled remark, Katju said the country should not make the same mistake as the Germans did in 1933 by encouraging what were known to be fascist forces.

Will Katju’s comments become a point of contention during the upcoming Budget Session in Parliament? It remains to be seen at a time when some kind of a working arrangement for the Budget Session has reportedly been reached between the ruling coalition and the Opposition.

Katju is not known to hold back his views and according to one report, he wrote an order on an appeal in a case that there was something rotten in the Allahabad High Court. The High Court judges were pained, but could not seek withdrawal of the observation even as some lawyers tried to. But a retiring judge brought this up in a farewell speech that it would leave it to his listeners to decide where the rot was and in whose mind it was, alluding to a provident fund scam, but deplored that this point was unnecessarily heaped upon those, implying the court, who had nothing to do with it even as their good points were ignored.  

Modi, against whom Katju had made strong critical references, promptly defended Jaitley’s statements as insightful in demolishing lies spread about Gujarat. A BJP spokesman added that the former judge’s comments were absolutely political and said that these raised many questions about his credibility. Modi is, however, pleased that the Islamic seminary at Deoband, Darul Uloom, has softened its stand towards him. The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind general secretary, Maulana Mehmood Madani, said that Muslims in Gujarat had voted for him as they believed that they were better off than Muslims in other states. But other leaders point out that Modi had not been endorsed as its leader for the 2014 general election even by the BJP in spite of noises in that direction.  

It is too early, however, for Modi’s march to the forefront of the Opposition as a prime ministerial candidate, but as expected Mayawati has jumped into the fray by announcing her ambitions to be in the race. She has asked her party men to brace up for the general elections next year, implying that everyone must show their loyalty and allegiance to her now and at all times as she is hell bent to lead the nation. She could not care less about the saying: ‘If wishes were horses…’ But she is no beggar. In her own dream world, she is an empress of sorts. (IFS)
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