Had a letter meant for former prime minister Indira Gandhi reached her hands, it could have resulted in a very different sequence of events, and declaration of Emergency may not have happened, reveals veteran jurist Shanti Bhushan.
The former Union Law Minister, in his book My Second Innings, reveals that an undelivered letter, which carried a crucial piece of advice for Gandhi, had the potential of averting a situation that led to the Emergency.
Bhushan, who had argued against Gandhi in the Allahabad High Court in the case for the setting aside of her election in 1975, writes that a wrong advice given to the former PM by her counsel S.C. Khare, who is the uncle of former Chief Justice of India V. N. Khare, led to the Emergency.
The wrong counsel given by lawyer Khare, according to Bhushan, was that Gandhi should stand in the witness box. Khare had felt that if such a powerful prime minister decided to appear before a junior judge of the high court, he would be so overwhelmed by her presence that he would not have had the courage to decide the case against her. However, it was a case of misjudging Justice Sinha, who stood up to the pressure and set aside Gandhi's election, which ultimately led to the imposition of Emergency.
Bhushan reveals that Gandhi's previous lawyer, the eminent advocate Kanhaiya Lal Misra, who had to step back because of failing health, had upon learning that she planned to appear in the witness box, written a letter to her asking her not to do so. He had sent the letter, on the morning of her court appearance, through his youngest son, but he was not allowed to meet her and the letter remained undelivered. “He had written to her not to make the mistake of appearing in the witness box and that even at this eleventh hour she should make some excuse for not appearing,” Bhushan writes.
The veteran lawyer also writes about his tryst with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The decision to form the party was taken at his Noida residence, and he had provided the AAP with seed funding of Rs one crore.
Bhushan, who along with his son, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, had a bitter fallout with Kejriwal, resulting in their exit from the party, says he made a grievous mistake in judging the character of the AAP convenor. He notes that Kejriwal is intelligent and sharp, and most importantly, understands the public mind, and he had in the beginning felt that he was a selfless person devoted to good causes.
He, however, writes, “It has now become clear that although he has some qualities, he lacks integrity... In plain English – Arvind Kejriwal betrayed all the core principles of AAP.”
Bhushan feels that Kejriwal made two “colossal mistakes” when he decided to contest against Narendra Modi from Varanasi. The first was that he resigned as chief minister of Delhi, and the second was to stick to Varanasi alone rather than going to other states also to campaign for at least a couple of days in each state. He says the “impulsive decisions” cost the party big time. “Later, he came to my house and apologised for his mistake of resigning.”
He also reveals that in the Varanasi election, while Yogendra Yadav, who was also one of the founding members of AAP before he too parted ways, was clear that Kejriwal was losing by a couple of lakh votes to Modi. Kejriwal was somehow convinced that he was winning hands down. “...he, therefore, decided to visit Varanasi at the time of counting with the intention of celebrating his victory by a huge victory procession.”
My Second Innings
by Shanti Bhushan
Published by Rupa
208 pages; Rs 595