Arun Jaitley: BJP’s defender-in-chief, media manager

Arun Jaitley: BJP’s defender-in-chief, media manager

From being a master strategist to donning the role of the chief trouble-shooter, former finance minister Arun Jaitley’s political career graph has run almost parallel to that of the BJP.

From planning protests against the Emergency and running campaigns against the Congress party in every election since 1977, Jaitley – passed away on August 24 – had a major role in the rise of the BJP.

A quintessential Delhi man, Jaitley had friends across the socio-political spectrum and knew how to work the levers of power.

An avid debater since his college days, first at the Shri Ram College of Commerce and later at the Law College, Jaitley struck long-lasting friendships here that held him in good stead in later life. He made a mark by defeating the Congress in 1974 as an ABVP candidate for the Delhi University Students’ Union elections.

Read More: RIP Arun Jaitley | Former finance minister passes away at 66

It has been a steady upward climb since in the legal profession as well as party hierarchy, till he reached the number two position for all practical purposes, in Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government.

At the national level, Jaitley’s political acumen was first put to test in 1977 as the national convenor for the Loktantrik Yuva Morcha established to campaign for the Janata Party. His legal defence of a major media house whose building in Delhi’s Fleet Street faced a demolition threat from the Lt Governor of Delhi brought him recognition and earned powerful friends in the media and legal circles.

His close association with V P Singh, who had rebelled against the Congress in 1986-87. Singh, helped Jaitley become the Additional Solicitor General when the former became the prime minister in 1989 with the support of the BJP. Jaitley was tasked with the Bofors case.

Between 1995 and 2000, Jaitley struck a friendship with Modi, who was in Delhi as BJP’s national secretary. He used his equations with L K Advani to plead Modi’s case as Gujarat chief minister in 2001.

Later, Jaitley became Modi’s greatest defender when he faced the heat on account of the post-Godhra riots. The bond only grew stronger. Jaitley was once again by Modi’s side when he made the prime ministerial bid.

Jaitley had held prominent ministerial berths – Information & Broadcasting, Commerce and Industry, Law and Justice under the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha between 2009-14, Jaitley kept the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government on its toes, paving the way for BJP’s landslide victory in 2014.

Jaitley was dogged by health issues, having undergone bariatric surgery in 2014, a kidney transplant in May 2018 and detection of soft tissue cancer earlier this year.

He stayed away from the government, but the politician in him refused to stay idle. He continued to pen blog posts in defence of the government, sharp enough to draw derisive responses from political opponents.

Jaitley’s team as they were often called, leaders close to him—Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and Dharmendra Pradhan — got key ministries in Modi 2.0 government.

With Jaitley gone, the BJP has lost its ‘defender-in-chief’ who came to its rescue whenever it was in trouble and needed a well-argued defence.