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A Nationalist Who Helped In The Mainstreaming Of BJP

As finance minister, his role in the GST rollout will always be remembered. Another achievement of the Narendra Modi government was that of expanding the Jan Dhan accounts and Jaitley executed it with his trademark finesse.

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The passing away of Arun Jaitley marks an end in the history of modern BJP. A former finance minister, former law minister, former BJP general secretary, former Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, top lawyer, cricket administrator, Jaitley donned many hats with aplomb.

Jaitley had a huge role in “mainstreaming” of the BJP. The BJP that we know today is the main pivot of Indian politics, and Jaitley, through his consummate communication skills and articulation, made sure that the nationalist party was acceptable in the mainstream media — once dominated by the “Liberal-Left”.

He was someone who was always entrusted with election management, and he turned it into an art. An ultimate backroom strategist, and a statesman who had friends across the political spectrum, Jaitley will also be remembered for giving rise to a liberal school in the mainstream BJP — be it LGBT rights, or any contentious issues. But he always remained a nationalist to the core. His last tweet was a celebratory one on the scrapping of Article 370.

As finance minister, his role in the GST rollout will always be remembered. Another achievement of the Narendra Modi government was that of expanding the Jan Dhan accounts and Jaitley executed it with his trademark finesse.

Come to think of it, the passing away of Ananthakumar, Sushma Swaraj, and Arun Jaitley, in such a short span of time, leaves a huge void in national politics. All of them had been groomed by L.K. Advani to take the BJP to newer heights, and they were often referred to as “second-generation BJP leaders”. Today, if you see a whole new generation of young BJP spokespersons holding forth on party issues and other matters, the credit must go to Jaitley — for he created a culture of consummate communication. He always believed that a mainstream political leader must have good persuasive skills.

Jaitley began as an ABVP activist while in SRCC and was elected the DUSU chief. That he didn’t often contest Lok Sabha elections was held against him. So he decided to fight the Amritsar seat — although he didn’t succeed. Critics also often complained that he “unduly influenced the media”, and called him “Bureau Chief”. But the fact is that reporters flocked to him for sessions on political insights and other “gup shup”. Like many others, he was always very kind to this reporter. He would surprise this reporter by saying, “Aaj teri report acchi thi”! 

But he was a raconteur par excellence. He once narrated to a small group, which included this reporter, how Mukesh Ambani would be harassed by pesky tele-marketers with ‘loan calls’!

When the BJP witnessed a generational shift from the Advani era to the Modi-Shah era, Jaitley was the common link. Jaitley was Advani’s blue-eyed boy. He was a friend-in-need to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah as well. This reporter was witness to Shah standing in a queue with a temporary pass to go to Jaitley’s Leader of Opposition chamber in Parliament, when he was not allowed to enter Gujarat following propaganda by the Congress.

In the Modi cabinet of 2014 Jaitley remained the de facto number two owing to the influence he wielded in the policy space. He personally groomed a number of BJP leaders, and his choice of incumbents for various ministries was respected by PM Modi and Amit Shah as well.

Jaitley was a giant. He will be fondly remembered by his followers, adversaries, and all those who had an opportunity to know him.    


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