A quintessential Delhi insider who knew his way around the Capital’s labyrinthine power circles. A generous benefactor to his juniors in the legal fraternity. A mentor to many younger leaders in the party. A raconteur who could regale journalists with stories and anecdotes about his colleagues in political and legal circles, and also about media persons themselves. Arun Jaitley was all these and much more.
Passing away of Jaitley at 66 -- after battling serious health issues for the past two years -- is a great loss to the BJP that has also lost its other ‘gen-next’ leaders Ananth Kumar and Sushma Swaraj in the recent past.
Affable and always ready to explain the party’s point of view patiently, Jaitley was perhaps the most popular spokesperson that the BJP had. All his qualities and skills had also made him the go-to man for Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he took oath for the first time in 2014. It was widely believed in power circles that the triumvirate comprising Modi, Amit Shah and Jaitley was running the show. Jaitley became almost indispensable for Modi and Shah, who were new to the ways of Lutyens' Delhi – a Delhi that Jaitley breathed and had imbibed.
He not only knew everyone who mattered but had cordial relations with all. He built relationships and maintained them painstakingly, building a near unprecedented goodwill over the decades.
It was no surprise that Jaitley was entrusted with three key portfolios of finance, defence and company affairs even though he lost the first ever Lok Sabha election he contested from Amritsar. His oratory and debating skills, honed over decades of arguing the toughest of legal cases, made him a valuable leader in Rajya Sabha. He was leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 2009 to 2014, taking on the UPA-led government on several issues including the coal scam and 2G cases. Outside the House, in the Central Hall, Jaitley was equally comfortable with Congressmen like Ghulam Nabi Azad and P. Chidambaram as he was with his own party leaders.
Even BJP’s worst critics – and also his own – always had a good word for Jaitley where his generosity and ethics were concerned. Though he was not a part of Modi government in the second term – on his own request owing to poor health – he continued to write well-argued blogs on various issues to support the government’s stand. His last blog was on Modi and Shah achieving the impossible in abrogating Article 370 and the new Kashmir policy.