The public kerfuffle between Mr. Arun Jaitley and Justice Katju has been in the news of late. Justice Katju, in an opinion piece in a leading daily, criticized Mr. Modi and his track record in a blatant attempt to counter his growing popularity. Mr. Jaitley, in turn, accused Justice Katju of being overtly political and called for his dismissal from chief of the press council. Justice Katju responded by asking Mr. Jaitley to quit politics and take up “sanyas!”
Mr. Jaitley is the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He is not directly elected by the people since he is a Rajya Sabha member from the state of Gujarat (though he has been Delhi-based for decades). As a senior member of the BJP, it makes sense for Mr. Jaitley to stand up for Mr. Modi and respond to such attacks. At the same time, it is quite understandable that at some level, he “owes’ Mr. Modi for his Rajya Sabha seat. Besides, Mr. Modi is being projected by many (including himself!) as the PM in waiting. Getting further into Mr. Modi’s good books can only help rather than hurt Mr. Jaitley’s future prospects. All in all, Mr. Jaitley has plenty of possible reasons for his open attack on Justice Katju.
Justice Katju, for his part, has been a very vocal figure since taking over as the chief of the press council. In a matter of months, he has gone from a virtual unknown to hitting the headlines every few weeks by attacking all and sundry. He has not even spared the people of the country at large, referring to Indians as “idiots, communal, etc.”. Despite the controversies that seem to follow Justice Katju’s statements, I think we need more visible, outspoken people. If anything, I would fault Justice Katju for not being even more outspoken. Even if one might agree with Justice Katju’s views on Mr. Modi, it is questionable as to why he chooses not to ever mention the attack on the Sikhs after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi. Besides, an outspoken man of his stature has had little to say so far about the unrestrained corruption under the current government.