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Kapil Sibal |  The rebel who quit- Mrit News

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The lawyer-politician, who left the Congress, says he is looking towards future 

The lawyer-politician, who left the Congress, says he is looking towards future 

Among the most outspoken lawyer-politicians, Kapil Sibal parted with the Congress after nearly a three-decade-long relationship in a rather mellow affair. He refused to get drawn into any debate about the party leadership under the Gandhis, though questions are being asked if his rebellion was all about getting a Rajya Sabha berth.

“I am not a Congressman any more and won’t speak about the party. I want to move forward and look towards the future,” Mr. Sibal, 73, told The Hindu, hours after filing his nomination as an Independent candidate, backed by the Samajwadi Party (SP), for the Rajya Sabha election.

His move forward in politics, however, seems to follow a familiar path. In 1998, he first entered the Rajya Sabha from Bihar with help from Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, then headed by Sitaram Kesri. This was his second attempt at politics; his first brush was in 1996 when he lost the Lok Sabha election to the late Sushma Swaraj of the BJP in the South Delhi constituency. “A defeat in court does not hurt as much because a lot depends on the merits of the case, but when I lost from South Delhi, I told myself that I must somehow avenge by living to fight elections another day,” Mr. Sibal wrote in his book Shades of Truth: A Journey Derailed.

This ability to put up a “spirited” fight brought him fame and controversies in equal measure.

Whether it was his “zero loss” theory to explain allocation of 2G spectrum during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government or bringing in the now struck-down Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act to censor social media platforms, Mr. Sibal threw himself open to sharp attacks from rivals.

He was born in 1948 at Jalandhar, as the youngest of the four sons of Kailash Rani and Hira Lal Sibal, a distinguished lawyer who had famously defended the renowned writer Sadaat Hasan Manto in a Lahore court against charges of “obscenity” in his writings. While studying history at St. Stephen’s College, the Sibal junior was well-known for his theatrical skills as a member of the Shakespeare Society. During this time, he met Nina Singh, a Miranda House college student, who went on to become his first wife. The story goes that he took and cleared the civil services exam in 1973 to join Nina, who had cleared the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) a year earlier. But when he got the IAS instead of the IFS, he dropped out.

Big moment

After getting married that year, he followed her to the U.S., where she was posted as a young diplomat, to pursue his Master’s in Law from the prestigious Harvard Law School. After returning to India, Mr. Sibal earned a reputation for himself by taking up high-profile cases in the 1980s and became Additional Solicitor-General in December 1989. But his big moment came in 1993 when he defended Justice V. Ramaswami, the first Supreme Court judge to face an impeachment motion in Parliament. A lawyer whose client list included the who’s who of Indian politics, Mr. Sibal defended Mr. Prasad in the 1997 fodder scam and ensured a Rajya Sabha berth a year later.

In 1998, when Sonia Gandhi took over as the Congress president, he became a party spokesperson. Two years later, he not only spoke out against the party leadership but also backed Jitendra Prasada, who had unsuccessfully contested against Ms. Gandhi for the post of party president. This was also the year when Mr. Sibal lost Nina to cancer. He married entrepreneur Promila five years later..

‘Trouble shooter’

In 2004, after winning Delhi’s Chandni Chowk seat, Mr. Sibal was made the Minister for Science and Technology by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Portfolios as diverse as Human Resource Development, Telecommunications & IT and Law & Justice became part of his growing responsibilities, and he was known as a “trouble shooter” within the party.

However, as the Congress’s electoral fortunes continued to slide, Mr. Sibal joined the party’s ginger group (referred to as G-23) in August 2020 to press for “a visible and collective leadership”. Last September, he crossed a red line with his comments that “in our party, at the moment, we have no president ” and “we are G-23, but definitely not Ji Huzoor [yes-men] 23”.

And now, he’s no longer with the party.

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