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Tiranga TV, 2G or EVMs: Kapil Sibal reserves his best performances for the worst causes

Kapil Sibal, called Kapilous Sibalious in his college days for his love for Shakespeare, is what many young lawyers-turned-politicians hope to be.

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Ever since he entered politics, Kapil Sibal has been known to reserve his best performances for the worst causes. Whether it was his attack on the Comptroller and Auditor General for “erroneously” estimating a notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in the telecom scandal, claiming that it was actually zero or his more recent attempt to show that EVMs can be hacked, Sibal has always launched the strongest offences when the defences around him are crumbling.

In the former case, the considered opinion, even of the friends of Congress, was that Sibal had damaged the credibility of the government as much as the original audit report had. In the latter, the website which Sibal quoted from, London’s TNN (Tri Colour News Network Ltd) World, went offline soon, only to be replaced by an erotic massage service.

Kapil Sibal’s most recent involvement in Tiranga TV is no different. In setting up Tiranga TV, he was clearly attempting to alter the discourse during the elections in favour of the Congress party, but in hastily dismantling it, he has left several journalists unemployed. He was called out by senior journalist Barkha Dutt (who was also working with Tiranga TV) in a series of tweets on 15 July where she alleged that more than 200 employees of the company had their equipment confiscated and were sacked without even a six-month payout. “Man who acts holier than thou in public has treated journalists in a hideous way,” she went on to say. “Most people here gave up other offers or left jobs on an assurance from Kapil Sibal of a professionally run newsroom and a minimum tenure of two years.” She accused Sibal’s wife, Promila, of abusing women journalists and referred the complaint to the National Commission for Women. She also compared Sibal to Vijay Mallya.

Sibal is routinely accused by “highly-placed sources in the Congress” of embarrassing the party. It is the stuff many reports are made of. Take this, which talks about his defence of triple talaq. Or this, where Abhishek Manu Singhvi, usually mentioned in the same breath as Sibal as Congress’ legal eagle, distances the Congress from Sibal’s presence at a London EVM hackathon event to show the vulnerability of EVMs.

Also read: Barkha Dutt slams Sibals as turmoil in Tiranga TV blows up. Channel says not shutting down

The lawyer-politician

The first time the country sat up and took note of Kapil Sibal was in 1993, when he addressed both Houses of Parliament on the impeachment of Supreme Court Judge E. Ramaswami. In a cover story for Frontline, Prashant Bhushan wrote: “Sibal made a six-hour presentation, hailed for its eloquence, by which he sought to show that there was no substance in the charges found proved by the committee and that many of them, in any case, were trivial. He ridiculed the motion for the removal of a judge “for purchases of a few pieces of carpet or a few suitcases”. By referring to various statements made by the judge in his reply sent to Parliament and to various documents filed by him in his reply, Sibal sought to demonstrate that the charges could not stand. Sibal’s lengthy presentation was heard by a packed House and it impressed many.”

Ramaswami survived the impeachment due to abstention by the Congress MPs, but according to India Today, it reinforced its image of being a party that balks at taking a stand on contentious issues.

Sibal, now 70, was part of two clubs in the Congress, which intersected at one point: the silver-haired, silver-tongued defenders of the faith, armed with an ability to use the English language as much to insult as to inspire, exemplified by Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor, and the high-wattage lawyers with clients across the political spectrum from Lalu Yadav to Mayawati, exemplified by P. Chidambaram and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

Sometime teacher of history at Hindu College, successful IAS candidate who didn’t become a bureaucrat, and Harvard-trained lawyer (via Delhi University), Sibal was a busy lawyer before he decided to join politics. He joined first as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1998 and then as an MP from Chandni Chowk in Delhi in 2004 and 2009, before becoming member of the Rajya Sabha in 2016 again. Described as one of the highest-paid lawyers in the country in an article in Man’s World, Sibal is quoted as saying: “I devote seventy per cent of my time to politics, the rest to law; it’s well-paying, so I can afford to be in politics.” It’s a model many young lawyers-turned-politicians hope to emulate. Congress spokesperson and Supreme Court lawyer Jaiveer Shergill says: “He is synonymous with excellence in legal acumen. He can brilliantly explain the most complicated cases in simplest form within established legal parameters. Indian legal jurisprudence owes a lot to him.”

Also read: Kapil Sibal again finds a way to embarrass Rahul Gandhi, appears for Anil Ambani in court

Kapilous Sibalious

Son of well-known lawyer, Hira Lal Sibal, who famously defended Sadaat Hasan Manto in his obscenity trial, the younger Sibal became part of Lutyens’ Delhi via Corbusier’s Chandigarh having spent his school years there before becoming somewhat of an acting legend at St Stephen’s College. So much so that he was called Kapilous Sibalious for his love of Shakespeare. Married to IFS officer Nina Sibal in 1973, he lost her to cancer in 2000. Businesswoman Promila Sibal, the object of Barkha Dutt’s angst, is his second wife.

Kapil Sibal’s assets in 2016, according to his Rajya Sabha affidavit, were worth Rs 212 crore, including homes in Delhi’s toniest areas like Maharani Bagh, New Friends Colony and a flat on Aurangzeb Road. He has commercial properties in Ludhiana and Barakhamba Road, Delhi.

Close to Manmohan Singh, he held various portfolios in the 10-year UPA regime: Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Communications and IT, and Ministry of Law and Justice. An India Today profile of that time by Priya Sahgal described him as “Manmohan Singh’s favourite defence artist, deployed whenever the government is in trouble. From the Lokpal Bill to the 2G scam, it is Sibal who is fielded to the media”.

Senior journalist Pankaj Vora, who has observed him for long, says he was in a league of his own as a lawyer. “But he is yet to make his mark as a front-ranking politician, although he is one of the more articulate ones”.

Also read: Kapil Sibal has made a habit of embarrassing the Congress

“His stint as HRD minister was controversial. The Aakash tablet, which he touted as the cheapest computer, had its share of problems, and his decision to launch the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation did not go down too well with school teachers. Neither did the four-year undergraduate degree he proposed, although the new education panel has suggested it be reintroduced,” says Vora.

Vora believes Sibal’s best as a politician is yet to come.

One can only hope it is better than his poetry. Witness this one addressed to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora:

Your legendary clean chits/showed the courage of two drones

you were eyes and ears of PM/and not Lavasa’s clones 

steadfastly you held on/to what you believed was right

for the Model Code of Conduct/was not within your sight

Democracy laments!

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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  1. The only contribution of Kapil Sibal as HRD minister forgotten by many is to the RTE targetting majority owned schools while ignoring to give schools any government funds. Many schools closed down or are still suffering consequences of RTE. His donations to Teesta Setalvad for writing anti hindu chapters in missionary schools are also for furthering animosity against hindus.

  2. Excellent article in this dubious politician. His best is in the legal profession. Given the Devil his due. His worst is his politics. He is not a person whom one can like easily.

  3. What is ‘skill’ brilliantly displayed on Law in the Courts is mere ‘verbal diarrhea’ when speaking on political matters ‘outside’ . For a man with so much intelligence and acumen attributed to him, one would think he will prefer discretion to valour in rushing to impress the “Family”, on matters other than Law.

  4. Sibbal neither value nor has heard of ancient wisdom words: Satyam Eva Jayate. This is why he is a consistent LOOSER. Only fun thing in the last case is that this time a creep meets a creep. JAI HO!

  5. Guys like Kapil sibal could have used their brains for much better purposes for development of the nation rather than use it for making money by fighting controversial cases and to use the money for his style of dirty politics

  6. As for as 2G is concerned Kapil sibal’s zero loss theory stood. Media joining hands with some political outfits in their media trial hyped and gave their judgements. But the Delhi court gave the judgement otherwise. This itself is a vindication of his zero loss theory.

  7. In Special court CBI was unable to prove anything. 1,76,crore corruption was an illusion created by few power brokers.

  8. But his claim on EVM has proved 200% correct. Syed Shuja on asylum in USA yesterday night gave a live demo on YouTube & proved EVM hacking. The Barkha Dutt rise in media is associated with rise of www & rise of right wing politics in India.It is 100% that accusation by her against Kapil Sibbal Tiranga TV are at the behest of corporate right wing sharks controlling media who achieved the mission by sabotaging the launch of a TV Channel which could have send the right wing March in India back to Rss barracks. Even other legal defence by him ultimately proved right with the accquitals on his arguments.

    • Former Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy rightly said “Those who are not winning, they will grumble; those who are winning they will keep quiet; when they (those who won earlier) lose, they will grumble. This game goes on,there is no end to it”

      A BIG NO !!!!!!

      Anyone who has ever served as an officer on any level in Election duty knows this – in and out.
      I have been fortunate enough to work at all positions from micro observer, Presiding Officer to Sector Magistrate; hence I feel deserving enough to answer.
      Before polling starts a MOCK POLL is conducted in presence of agents from all the political parties wherein at least one vote is cast to all the candidates thereby checking all buttons of the EVM. The result is then tallied in front of all the agents and after everone is satisfied – the machine is sealed for the actual polling. The mock is well documented and the VVPAT slips are also sealed.
      There is absolutely no way – after the machine is sealed to hack or tamper the machine or manipulate the results.
      It would require a hell lot of people, resources and money to plan out an exchange of machine after buying many many people to change even one EVM. Given the absolutely strict process in which the elections are conducted with many many levels of supervision and para military involved, it is a very hard task to change even one EVM.

      Mass tampering and changing of EVM’s is IMPOSSIBLE.

  9. Kapil sibal exposed demonitisation scam, where BJP workers were exchanging crores of old currency to new and keeping 40 percent to themselves, he also highlighted how bjp was spending crores on elections, at least 27000 crores in its campaigns, he also rightly said 2 G was not actual loss but just a fictional loss , vinod Rai who wanted to bring down the govt succeeded with the help of the likes of Anna hazard and Kiran bedi to brainwash Indian fools into believing Congress was corrupt. Kudos to Kapil sibal for sticking to the truth

  10. Dealing with the detritus of Cyclone Raja in telecom took up too much of Shri Kapil Sibal’s time. Had he devoted a decade to HRD, he could have made a lasting contribution to the future of young Indians. A very affable personality, not always the case with senior lawyers. About his political future, one really cannot say what remains, given the present state of the Congress. He should take up a few extra cases for some very rich clients and use the fees to clear the dues of all the decent middle class journalists who trusted him.

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