A surprising ebb after a rapid rise in Kiren Rijiju’s ministerial trip

Rijiju’s change in ministerial portfolio is a definite clipping

Kiren Rijiju Kiren Rijiju

Young, media savvy, articulate, a fitness freak to boot, and last but not the least, strongly moored in his rooting in Arunachal Pradesh in India’s Northeast, Kiren Rijiju’s personae and background is packed with all the ingredients that the ruling BJP could ask for.

That was the reason why he was chosen as the junior minister in the pivotal home ministry when the Narendra Modi-led BJP strode in to power at the Centre in the summer of 2014. That was why his elevation as a cabinet minister with the all-important law and justice portfolio raised no eyebrows on July 7, 2021.

And Rijiju delivered well. But whether he crossed the line is something that will be known only to the top leadership of the party.

Educated in Delhi University from where he also completed his law degree, Rijiju’s rise in politics kept pace with his growing proximity to the powers that be.

To be fair to him, his immediate predecessors in the law ministry were not only heavyweights in their respective parties but also members of the Bar who laid down their legal arguments in court with aplomb. A post that was first occupied by B.R. Ambedkar in independent India, Rijiju succeeded the likes of Ashwani Kumar, Kapil Sibal, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Arun Jaitley in the last 15 years or so.

Perhaps therein lay a vulnerability which was exposed during his increasingly frequent run-ins with the judiciary in recent times.

During a media conclave in the national capital about two months ago, Rijiju said of ‘certain’ retired judges: “There are a few judges who are activists and are part of an anti-India gang which is trying to turn the judiciary against the government like the opposition parties.”

His critical utterances against the collegium systems of appointing judges resulted in a perception of having a confrontational attitude.

While no one would doubt that the 52-year-old spoke his mind only with the acquiescence of the highest leadership, the sudden ‘relegation’ of Rijiju on Thursday morning as law minister to minister of earth sciences has taken everyone by surprise. If there is at all a reason for the development that is not known to many, it can only be something that is not quite charitable.

There is also a school of thought that claims Rijiju losing the law ministry is due to tardy progress in legal formalities and drafting to usher in the Uniform Civil Code which has the big political currency before the general elections of 2024.

Rijiju’s loss would be former bureaucrat Arjun Meghwal’s gain. Besides being a minister of state with the parliamentary affairs and culture portfolio, Meghwal will be law minister with independent charge.

Joining politics after retiring as an IAS officer, Meghwal, from Rajasthan, holds a law degree besides being a post-graduate in political science.

The expectation is that as law minister, he would try to soothe the frayed relationship between the political executive and the judiciary, yet to hold on to the objections against the collegium system for appointment to the higher judiciary.

After taking charge of the law ministry on Thursday, Meghwal mouthed the expected: “Justice should be served to all and cases pending in courts should be as less as possible.” To be fair to him, it is too very early for him to be familiar with the intricacies that leading the law ministry entails. 

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