US Attorney Preet Bharara
Preet Bharara - the Bruce Springsteen of US attorneys draws flak in homeland for Devyani Khobragade case Reuters

As the ugly diplomatic row over the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade escalates and takes on more legal complications, the focus is on India-born Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara who has famously busted gang leaders and mafia bosses, exposed Wall Street's festering ills and prosecuted 9/11 conspirators and other terrorists.

Bharara, who was born in 1968 in the Firozpur town of Punjab state, to a Sikh father and Hindu mother, shot into country-wide fame last year when he prosecuted former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta in an insider trading case and got him convicted.

The high-profile prosecutor was routinely projected by the media as another proof of the Indian success in the United States after he was appointed as US attorney for Manhattan in 2009.

When Rajat Gupta was convicted owing to the relentless pursuit of the Raj Rajaratnam insider trading case by Bharara, the Indian media, and the general public, gave Bharara the credit for busting Wall Street's white collar criminals.

Inherent Irony

However, the inherent irony was palpable. India worships its sons and daughters who make it big in the US, becoming part of the "American Dream". Here, the dismal downfall of one of India's most celebrated financial high achievers in the US was executed by another big achiever.

Bharara had brushed aside the lauded coincidence as meaningless trivia, saying nothing could be read into defendants and prosecutors sometimes sharing an ethnic background and heritage.

"..None of that is remotely relevant to the work we do in this office, which is to hold people to account for their criminal conduct regardless of their race, ethnicity , status or anything else for that matter when we can prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," he told the Times of India in an interview.

However, following the arrest of Khobragade, the public perception of the crusading prosecutor has changed in India.

Though the US State Department adopted a conciliatory tone in the wake of strong protests from India, Bharara had merely stuck to his legal position. He said the prosecutors' job was to bring before law anyone who breached it, "no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are".

Even senior Indian diplomats who held the highest positions in the US and the UN, took potshots at Bharara, saying overzealous Indian-origin officials in the US where unfairly targeting Indians to burnish their political and professional credentials.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said he "would still prefer to call the incident a conspiracy rather than an act of gigantic stupidity" on the part of US officials.

The minister was dismissive about Bharara, saying there was "no need to take Preet Bharara or his comments seriously".

Bharara's statement that the US evacuated the victim's family from India as part of the commitment to protect victims, witnesses and their families when the case is going on, infuriated India.

Who Rules India?

New Delhi hit back at Bharara, accusing him of interfering with its legal system and suggesting that there was a conspiracy behind the whole issue as the complainant's family was moved to the US just two days before the arrest of Khobragade.

Uttam Khobragade, the diplomat's father and a former member of India's elite administrative service, said there was a plot behind her prosecution. He singled out Bharara for his attack.

"Please take cognisance of Bharara's utterance, that the Indian legal process is meant to 'silence' the maid ... It is a blatant attack on the judiciary of India. Is it the prime minister or is it Preet Bharara who rules India?" he asked.

Is US attorney Preet Bharara using the Khobragade case for a political career, online newspaper First Post asked.

Though he has denied having ambitions for elective office, saying the job of a prosecutor was the best in the world, there has been speculation about the political ambitions of Bharara, a Democratic party member.

His current role of US attorney for Manhattan was once held by Rudy Giuliani, who had won accolade for his leadership as mayor of New York following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

While a Times of India article called him an "iconoclastic prosecutor for whom none is sacred", the Outlook magazine was less generous, highlighting the Indian share of Bharara's quarry.

"Before spearheading proceedings against Devyani, Bharara had hit the headlines for prosecuting ex-McKinsey MD Rajat Gupta for insider trading charges," it said.

In the same week of Khobragade's arrest, Bharara's team nailed another Indian for allegedly running a scheme that defrauded Medicaid and Medicare. Purna Chandra Aramalla, a pharmacist from Queens, New York, has been accused of selling illegally diverted prescription drugs.

Obviously, Bharara's reputation for busting Indian pride remains unquestioned.

Bharara, who came to the US as a two-year-old with his parents, was educated in the Columbia University School of Law, Harvard University and Ranney School.

Before taking up his current role of the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, he worked as chief counsel for Senator Schumer at the US Senate Judiciary Committee and as an assistant US attorney for southern New York district. He had also previously worked as litigation associate at Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman.

Enemies and Admirers

While the feted lawyer has made a host of enemies in his career, from powerful Russians to millions in India, he has also made in diverse strata of society.

In November 2012, following the two-year sentencing of Gupta and as Bharara completed proceedings to sue the Bank of America for $1bn, he attended a concert by Bruce Springsteen, where the singer dedicated a song to Bharara.

"Before ripping into Death to My Hometown, a rollicking Celtic-inspired anthem, Springsteen shouted: "This is for Preet Bharara!" the NY Times had reported.

Srpingsteen's lyrics clearly echoed Bharara's own efforts to clean up the financial capital of the world by taking on all sorts of corporate wrongdoings.

Send the robber barons straight to hell.
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found.

"The song's lyrics, which are about the effect of the economic crisis, apply to Mr Bharara's line of work," the reports said.