Former Union Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley today passed away in New Delhi. After suffering from cancer for a considerable amount of time, the BJP leader breathed his last in AIIMS, New Delhi.
Although his life was cut short too soon by the disease, his achievements during his political career will be remembered for a long time to come. Together with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, he laid the foundations for a New India.
Over time, an aura has developed around the Modi-Shah duo. But in reality, it was never a duo, to begin with. It has always been a ‘trio’ with Jaitley as the third arm. It is widely known that Jaitley was the ‘go-to’ man for Narendra Modi on a wide range of affairs.
Despite having the trust of the top two leaders of the BJP, Jaitley hasn’t always been liked much by the party’s followers. Perceived to be too close to the Lutyen’s cabal, he became a convenient fall-guy for supporters who weren’t too pleased with certain aspects of government policy. It was convenient to blame Jaitley and make him the scapegoat for the government’s perceived failures.
However, Narendra Modi has amply demonstrated throughout his political career that loyalty is one virtue he treasures most. Considering the ups and downs in his own life, perhaps there was no other choice left to him. Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are known to share an almost brotherly relationship. In that order, despite his supporters’ inclinations, Jaitley was treated in high regard by the Prime Minister himself and was one of his trusted lieutenants.
At crucial moments, when Modi needed support the most, Jaitley always stood by him like a rock. And not just Modi, he was a great friend of Amit Shah as well. Jaitley handled the legal issues of both of them when they were being hounded by their political enemies. When Shah was barred from entering Gujarat via a Court order, he was a regular feature at Jaitley’s residence for lunch. When stalwarts within the BJP opposed Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministerial candidature, it was Jaitley who emerged as his strongest supporter and problem solver. During his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi relied heavily on Jaitley to be his eyes and ears in Delhi.
While his ideological commitment has often been questioned by prominent leaders within the BJP itself, his political career is in stark contrast with the picture his detractors want to paint of him. Rising through the ranks of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), of which he was a President during the 1970s, he has been a member of the National Executive of the BJP since 1991. He was also the President of the BJP’s Youth Wing and was appointed the secretary of its Delhi Unit in 1980. Thus, he has been associated with the party in significant positions through its initial rise, the unexpected collapse and then its subsequent stellar rise to utter dominance in Indian Politics under Narendra Modi.
Unlike many others in the political arena but what appears to be a feature of the BJP, Jaitley is a completely self-made man. He rose through the ranks to become a dominant power player in the corridors of New Delhi. During the Emergency, he spent 19 months in jail due to his commitment to civil liberty. Later, he was appointed the Additional Solicitor general by V.P. Singh during which he played a role in assembling the papers that led to the investigation into the Bofors scam. During the Vajpayee government as well, Jaitley served as the Union Minister and did a commendable job.
During Narendra Modi’s first tenure as Prime Minister, Jaitley was one of his staunchest and most eloquent defenders. Be it the Rafale deal or taking on the ‘tyranny of the unelected’ Judiciary, Jaitley served the government very ably. While his detractors might crib about his tenure as Union Finance Minister, it appears quite obvious to neutral observers that he was working within the guidelines issued to him by the Prime Minister himself. Given the strategic objectives that he was no doubt given by Modi himself, he set out to achieve them in the fashion he thought was best.
It can be very well argued that he did succeed in his endeavour. While great emphasis was always put on the agricultural sector and social welfare schemes, Jaitley succeeded in maintaining the fiscal deficit at manageable levels. Inflation was so low during the entire first term of the NDA government that it became completely a non-issue. Strategic economic reforms such as Demonetization and the GST were also introduced during his tenure as Finance Minister, reforms that will have great impact for the years to come.
A man of unique talent, Jaitley became an important player in the corridors of Delhi through his own capabilities, rose through the ranks from the ABVP to becoming the Union Finance Minister, went to jail for his political beliefs, was a staunch supporter of Narendra Modi and a trusted friend of Amit Shah since their Gujarat days, furthered Modi’s legitimacy as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the party. And yet, his loyalty was regularly questioned by people, often from his own party. He acquired great prominence in the corridors of power and yet, he never actually won a major election.
Jaitley had his own follies and vices as well, surely, but the defining feature of his political career was loyalty. If there was one word that could describe his public life in its entirety, it is Loyalty. He was suave, eloquent, measured, charming, but above all, he was Loyal. He may have had great connections with the Lutyens world and was certainly great at networking, however, he used his great communication skills for the welfare of his own party.
His untimely demise would no doubt have a considerable impact on the Prime Minister and the current Home Minister not only on the professional front but also on a personal level. The great rapport that the three of them shared is evident given their history together. It is also a testament to their relationship that Narendra Modi visited Jaitley personally when the latter expressed his desire to not continue to be part of the government in any form.
Jaitley served the country and the party for a great number of years and made great contributions towards altering the entire political dimensions of the country. And he did so without hankering for credit. He was a loyal servant of his country and his party. And now, his watch has ended. Om Shanti.