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The quintessential consensus builder

In recent years Arun Jaitley’s was the most familiar face among Delhi’s politicians and intellegentia. He strode across the political scene a colossus.

JAITLEY handled as Union Minister a variety of portfolios that included Finance, Defence, Law & Justice, Corporate Affairs, I&B, Disinvestment. The brilliant leader left his mark in each one of these.

From the student days, Jaitley was a popular leader. He was President of the Delhi University Students’ Union. His active participation in the JP movement and opposition to the Emergency in the 1970s led to his spending 19 months in jail. That, of course, was a blessing in making him opt for a political career in which he shone as brightly as he did in the legal profession. He was the Additional Solicitor General in 1989.

Jaitley was the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Along with Sushma Swaraj who was the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, BJP had two brilliant orators who kept the UPA government on tenterhooks.

The technocrat – strategist…

Jaitley, along with Pramod Mahajan, was a technocrat-strategist. Remember the BJP sweeping the polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other northern states by extensive mapping of the constituencies and taking recourse to IT? Jaitley was the head of the think-tank and strategy in the BJP. He saw the leadership potential of Modi early and lent him strong support. In fact, this was of great help in Modi surviving as chief minister of Gujarat tiding over the strident post-Godhra riots criticism. He was closely involved in advising on the cases against Modi and Amit Shah that finally cleared this duo of
the charges.

Jaitley believed in presenting his views through the mass media and different industry associations with clarity and passion. He maintained excellent relations with the press and it has been a delight to hear his cogent, logical and persuasive presentations in the news TV channels. Even Amit Shah took care of work at the grassroots, Jaitley lent the stature and content to BJP’s strategy. His stewardship of the Delhi Cricket Association and his close involvement with the affairs of BCCI showed him a great cricket administrator. His gregarious nature and generosity won him friends across the political spectrum, exemplified by several leaders in the Congress showering praise on his qualities of head and heart.

A game-changer, a mentor…

In his stewardship of the finance ministry, two of his monumental contributions would be remembered: his making GST Act a reality despite stiff opposition from several states ruled by opposition parties; the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code which was a game-changer in the return-to-health of public sector banks. He did initiate steps to build the size of the public sector units. He mentored Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan… the nextgen ministers who can be expected to expand on his work.

His indifferent health denied him extensive travels. He kept close relations with the Delhi media. Disappointingly, he denied this to those outside Delhi. He continued with the neglect of the Annual Economic Editors’ Conference (EEC) that provided a precious opportunity to non-Delhi journalists to interact with policymakers. The last EEC was held on November 2016 in a truncated form. Inaugurating it, Jaitley referred to the wide range of tax reforms, including the GST Act passed by his government and to the objectives of the demonetisation announced a couple of days earlier.

In the last twelve months, BJP has lost Vajpayee, Manohar Parikkar, Ananth Kumar,
Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. The Modi-Amit Shah team should strive to fulfill the vacuum created at the top by focusing on nurturing new talent on priority.

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