Arun Jaitley was BJP’s man for all seasons
New Delhi: Articulate, knowledgeable and versatile- Arun Jaitley was BJP’s man for all seasons and contributed immensely to the party’s emergence as a key force among the middle class.
As a consummate lawyer, he handled tricky political situations with ease, worked out winning electoral strategies and presented even the most complicated political, legal or business issue with clarity.
A four-time member of Rajya Sabha, Jaitley was among the BJP leaders who sensed early that Narendra Modi had the potential to challenge the Congress’ domination of national politics and backed him within the party and outside.
As Finance Minister in the first tenure of the Modi government, Jaitley oversaw implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST), a major tax reform that had huge electoral implications. The sensitive decision of demonetisation was also taken by the Modi government while he presided over the ministry.
Despite best efforts of the opposition to portray demonetisation as “anti-people” and implementation of GST as “flawed”, Jaitley and other BJP leaders ensured the ruling alliance did not lose the political narrative and brought about correctives based on the feedback from the ground.
He regularly wrote articles and blogs explaining the rationale of Modi government’s decision and was pivotal to the party’s reach out to the intelligentsia. It contributed to building the narrative for BJP’s emphatic victory in this years’ Lok Sabha elections.
Facing health issues, Jaitley wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of swearing-in May and opted out of the new government. In a special gesture, Modi visited him at his residence a day ahead of taking the oath.
An accomplished lawyer and a cricket administrator, Jaitley rose to prominence during Emergency in the late 1970s when he was detained for 19 months under MISA.
He became the national convener of the Loktantrik Yuva Morcha and campaigned for Janata Party candidates in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections.
Jaitley joined ABVP, the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and was elected as president of the student union at the Delhi University in 1974. He later joined the BJP.
The senior BJP leader grew close to Modi by helping him in surmounting legal challenges, which Modi, then the chief minister of Gujarat, faced in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Jaitley lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar but that did not prevent him from being appointed a union minister. He was given key portfolios of finance and corporate affairs.
It was a measure of Modi’s trust in him that he was also given charge of defence ministry twice.
With his health conditions necessitating rest, Jaitley was twice minister without portfolio in the Modi government and later resumed his work as Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister.
Jaitley was thrice elected to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat and two of these terms came when Modi was chief minister of the state.
Jaitley was Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha during the UPA-II government, and along with his colleague Sushma Swaraj, vociferously highlighted the “failures” of the Congress-led coalition which helped built momentum against it.
After BJP-led government came to power, he was appointed Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha. He is learnt to have advised BJP chief Amit Shah in his legal cases.
Jaitley served the party in various organsational roles including spokesperson, general secretary and incharge of poll-bound states.
Jaitley was one of BJP’s most successful spokespersons with his dexterity in English and Hindi and a key face to reach out to the middle class. He articulated his points with sharpness and crispness and often with catchy phrases that were easy to turn into headlines.
Urbane and multi-faceted, Jaitley was key to BJP’s reach out to the sections that read and speak English.
An interesting conversationalist with seemingly endless of anecdotes, Jaitley had an earthy sense of humour and a friendly demeanour and had wide connections with the media.
Jaitley liked reading and held his own in the discussion on subjects as diverse as modern history, law, judiciary, economy, politics or cricket. He thrashed out issues with ease.
A resident of Delhi and a lawyer closely associated with politics since his student days, Jaitley was an insider to city’s power politics and knew people across professions and disciplines. He had friends across the political divide and leaders came to him in private for advice.
Jaitley was Additional Solicitor General from 1989 – 90 when Bofors issue was at its peak and became a member of BJP national executive in 1991.
He served various ministries including Law, Justice, and Company Affairs and Minister of Commerce and Industry in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition government (1999-2004).
Jaitley became a member of Rajya Sabha in 2000 and re-elected in 2006, 2012 and 2018. He was appointed as a general secretary after NDA lost power in the 2004 elections.
The Vajpayee government, in which he was the law minister, brought legislations to freeze the number of seats in parliament until 2026, impose penalties on members of parliament who defected from their parties and put a limit to the number of legislators who could be made ministers.
Jaitley contributed to political discourse through his articles in which he often targeted Congress. “Tukde-tukde gang” and “chunavi Hindus” were among the coinages he used to target Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi.
Jaitley’s parents had shifted from undivided Punjab. His politics reflected decency even though he never shied from hitting his punches.
He was born on December 28, 1952 and pursued B.Com. (Hons.) from Shri Ram College of Commerce and Law from Delhi University.
Jaitley studied at St Xavier’s School and said that his days at school were the most memorable as they moulded his thoughts which later shaped his political vision.
He was a former president of Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) and a former Vice-President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). He was also a member of Governing Council of Indian Premier League (IPL).