Media's favourite politico who had no enemies

Media's favourite politico who had no enemies

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers pay tribute to India's former finance minister Arun Jaitley. (AFP Photo)

At a time when political discourse has degenerated into personal attacks, the disarming charm of Arun Jaitley brought in a whiff of fresh air. 

If the affable politician had friends across political parties and professions, it was only because he was a sort of ‘Ajata Shatru’ of Indian politics. A rare trait for a politician, he spread a lot of cheer and happiness around. The late finance, defence and commerce minister never antagonised anyone, which endeared him to most. He knew most by name, whether they were politicians, lawyers, mediapersons or people from other fields. He was in fact, known to have more friends in the Opposition than within the BJP.

‘Young Turk’

One of the first to be arrested during the Emergency, where he came in contact with Jayaprakash Narayan and many others, Jaitley was mentored by BJP patriarch L K Advani. He was one of the ‘Young Turks’ of Advani, others being Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar—all of whom have passed away—and Venkaiah Naidu, who is now the 
Vice President.

A mentor to many

Like Advani, Jaitley too mentored many—Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravishankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan among others—all of whom are now ministers. He was a great talent hunter.

Chief adviser

The go-to man in the BJP, he was the trouble-shooter for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last five years much like Pranab Mukherjee during the 10 years of the UPA rule. Modi, an outsider to Delhi, depended on Jaitley on several issues. The legal eagle was the main legal advisor to BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah when Shah charged in several criminal cases.

Media’s darling

The advocate-politician had special ties with media. When Parliament was in session, he would invariably be seen talking to a group of media persons at the hallowed Central Hall over butter toast and hot coffee.

Journos always enjoyed his company as he would come out with off-the-record inside information, be it of his party or that of the Opposition. He enjoyed gossip but ensured that he would never belittle anyone.

Timeless smile

Jaitley was a passionate collector of branded watches and Pashmina shawls. At Central Hall, if one saw a new watch on his wrist, the question was always, “Sir, how much did it cost?” But Jaitley would never reveal it, would just reply through his disarming smile.

For party’s love

Soon after becoming a Parliament member, Jaitley got a bungalow next to the BJP office on Ashoka Road in Delhi allotted to him. But he never lived there.

He gave that to the party office. A small gate through the wall was the link between the two.

Memorable walks

Many regulars at the lush-green Lodhi Gardens would miss Jaitley’s company during their morning walks. He was known to be doing rounds with his friends, mainly lawyers like Mukul Rohtagi, and have tea, and sometimes breakfast too.

Cricket & tennis

Though a cricket administrator, he was a tennis fan. He rarely missed being at Wimbledon in June every year.

People’s person

The eminent lawyer was known to look after his office staff well, would help them in almost everything, be it family weddings, health issues or children’s education.


It’s difficult to remember if anyone had a run-in with Jaitley—only two incidents come to my mind: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s diatribe against Jaitley which resulted in a defamation case but ended as the CM tendered an apology; second, Jaitley’s criticism of Rajnath Singh as BJP chief for making “tentwalas” party office-bearers. Singh had to drop businessman Sudhanshu Mittal from the post.