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The Rediff Election Interview/Kapil Sibal

April 29, 2004

On May 10, 1993, a lawyer dressed in legal robes went through a sheaf of papers at the dock strategically placed just outside the entrance to the Lok Sabha.

He was there to defend then Supreme Court judge Veeraswami Ramaswami who faced an impeachment motion.

Are you confident of winning?
Absolutely. That is why I have got the ticket.

Chandni Chowk is the heart of Delhi. At the local level, the issues before the residents of Chandni Chowk are those of congestion, traffic, parking, public amenities, sanitation, water, electricity, and the builders issue. We will fight the election by understanding local issues and explaining national issues.

What national issues?
Prime Minister Vajpayee's utter disregard for human suffering and shocking indifference. I don't think a person of his insensitivity should again be a claimant for the prime minister's chair. What happened in Lucknow [a stampede for sarees at a BJP function, in which 22 were killed], the BJP-sponsored fiasco, is just another eye-opener to this government's sheer negligence.

What are the other issues?

Unemployment, poverty, hunger, starvation, you name it and it is there. I am not saying it, people are saying it. And then these BJP people have the temerity to say that India is shining!

What is your party going to do about it?
Already the poll predictions have begun saying that the NDA is on the downslide and that we are gaining. I tell you it is an understatement. Wait till we assume power and we will show this NDA that it doesn't pay to communalise, politicise, and brutalise the people on whose votes it came to rule. For a change, we will make it pay.

Will the Congress be vindictive if it assumes power?
Oh no! Far from it. But we will make sure that those who took it upon themselves to teach others a lesson themselves get to know what it feels to embark on misrule.

Care was taken to see that the lawyer did not enter the House because he was not a member.

The impeachment motion collapsed on the floor of the House and the lawyer, Kapil Sibal, occupied the national limelight with all newspapers in the country prominently reporting his defence of the judge.

Sibal has not looked back since.

The 55-year-old senior Supreme Court advocate has impressive credentials. Educated at Delhi's St Stephen's College and the Harvard Law School in the United States, Sibal rose to become India's additional solicitor general and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. His legal expertise not only brought him considerable publicity, but also entry into the political arena.

Fed up with the successive cases lodged against him by what he felt was a vindictive National Democratic Alliance government, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav hired Sibal to defend him.

Sibal's handling of the cases pleased the RJD chief so much that he spoke highly of him to his party's alliance partner in Bihar, the Congress, which made Sibal a Rajya Sabha member in 1998.

Considering his quicksilver mind and legal acumen, Sibal -- whose elder brother Kanwal served as India's foreign secretary till recently -- was made a Congress spokesman in 1999.

He has been a major weapon in the Congress attacks on the Vajpayee government over various scandals like the UTI scam, the Tehelka expose, and the coffin scam, much to the NDA's discomfiture.

If anyone had any doubt about the party high command's confidence in Sibal, it must have been erased with the ticket for the Lok Sabha election from Chandni Chowk, where he will joust with the BJP's bahu. Smriti Malhotra Irani.

An interview with Chief Correspondent Tara Shankar Sahay.

Photograph: Deshkalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images | Image: Rahil Shaikh

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India Votes 2004 | The Rediff Interviews

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