Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj: A tale of two leaders

Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj: A tale of two leaders

Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.

Like a doubles team in lawn tennis, they played together for the party with an elan that finds few parallels in politics.

Two intellectual faces of the BJP— Arun Jaitley, who breathed his last on Saturday afternoon and Sushma Swaraj who died on August 6, 2019 — bid adieu to the world in the same month. They were so diametrically different yet so essentially integral to the party they represented.

As a party functionary who worked with both of them puts it, Sushma and Jaitley were like two banks of a river that never crossed each other’s paths, thus helping the party steer clear of obstructions.

The brain-and-heart combo of the BJP that Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were, they carved their political careers in the same party, with different potentials and persona.

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While Jaitley had Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad background, Sushma came from the socialist stable. But neither of them was considered close to the core in the Sangh family. They had distinct liberal identities in a party of hardliners. 

Both were darlings of media. Jaitley had his elaborate media durbars till the end of his tenure as finance minister. Sushma, though was a private person, kept in touch with a group of journalists, mostly the women journalists who covered the External Affairs Ministry and the BJP, as she believed in the cause of women and rejoiced in their empowerment.

Jaitley and Sushma are best-remembered for their roles as Leaders of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively after the party went out of power in 2004. And before that, for their role as the finest and fiercest spokespersons of the party.

Sushma got away with her fiercest attack on Sonia Gandhi, threatening to shave her head and live like a widow if the then Congress President became Prime Minister in 2004. Many Congress leaders praised her as the “best PM candidate BJP could have had”.

On the other hand, Jaitley, the chief strategist of BJP, despite his suave manner and sweet tongue, remained at the centre of Opposition’s attack often.

While Jaitley was one of the first in the party to back Narendra Modi’s PM candidature, Sushma didn’t hide her initial reluctance to do so. Jaitley played a key role in Modi’s designation as BJP’s PM candidate, which involved sidelining of party veterans LK Advani and MM Joshi. Sushma was then on the other side.