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'26/11 was a decisive reason to contest polls'

April 29, 2009

Electioneering, for celebrity lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, has clearly been no cakewalk -- the day's campaigning is yet to begin, but his crisp white kurta is already rumpled when the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena candidate for the Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha seat limps into the room.

His many padayatras have left him with sore and bruised feet, even as they opened his eyes to the life lived by a majority of Mumbai's citizens. He's ashamed, he says, that he didn't know this earlier.

Though he lives in south Mumbai, he has temporarily shifted to Mumbai North Central, Priya Dutt's constituency. It is a tough constituency for non-Congress candidates -- in fact, rumours speak of other high profile nominees rejecting the seat.

Jethmalani is unfazed. During his padayatras through a constituency 73 per cent of which is dominated by slums, he shakes as many hands as he can, stops for blessings at every religious place of worship, accepts garlands with a smile and does not hesitate to chat in his "not so sphast (correct) Hindi."'s Savera R Someshwar caught up with Jethmalani towards the end of his campaigning.

You haven't been visibly involved in politics before this -- so why now?

I had been involved in my father's (eminent lawyer and former Union minister Ram Jethmalani) electoral campaigns. I have been involved in the fringe of politics in the sense that I have been in Delhi very often, meeting with politicians. I have tried to do my little bit in judicial reform. But no, I can't say I've done any active politics.

26/11 was a clearly decisive reason. Also, there were a number of circumstances which all came in conjunction together. For instance, I felt very settled in my professional life. My daughter has grown up. I have two-and-a half-year-old twins and I miss them, but I think I am ready now.

I have complete personal and financial comfort. I am at an area in my profession where I want to be at this stage, looking forward. I think it's a good time to get into politics now and add one more string to your bow.

You said 26/11 was definitely a deciding factor. How does that play out against the needs of your constituency?

26/11 was not about civic issues in Bombay; it was about international terrorism. We need to take strong steps on security, and I thought we could not trust this to the existing power holders any more. We have to take things into our own hands.

Image: Mahesh Jethmalani on a campaign tour with party workers. Photograph: Satish Bodas.

Also see: 'We are creating two Indias' | India Votes 2009