BJP loses a Brihaspati
 Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi paying tribtue to Arun Jaitley at his residence

Arun Jaitley did much for the party without expecting praise or reward. BJP was his strength and he lived up to his task until the end

VN Balakrishna  

The passing away of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on August 24, 2019, at age of 66 came as a shock to many in the BJP. In politics, 66 is young to go. But what hit the BJP most was its guru Brihaspati, whose invaluable insights were tremendously helpful, has gone. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it, Arun Jaitley had “very few parallels”.
Rank and file loved him for his non-controversial and amiable persona. Every word he spoke was nuanced and weighed. This writer remembers him for his oratory skills having heard him speak many years ago at Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ahmedabad that held the audience spellbound. He had the ability to connect with the hearts and minds. His clever and emphatic counter to the then Law Minister Kapil Sibal during the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill debate was a classic case when oratory and truth triumphed over falsehood and chicanery stopping the Congress in its track trying to undermine the judiciary.
He was one of those rare politicians that India is bound to miss as he was admired by people across the spectrum. He was suave and articulate and would go hammer and tongs at his political opponents when the need arose. But nothing he would say was ever taken umbrage by his opponents. A super strategist, his party men loved him. Indeed BJP is now left without its sharp troubleshooter Brihaspati.
If Modi was the face of the party, Arun Jaitley was the brain. When the Prime Minister says he will miss him dearly, it makes sense as he had charted the course as Finance Minister shaping India’s destiny as the world's fastest-growing economy. He had also held Defence portfolio for a while, but his innate talent blossomed in the role of Finance Minister when he dodged minefields to chart a new course away from the Socialist mindset that dominated Indian economy.
Many don’t know that his association with Narendra Modi dates back to the 1990s, much before Modi publicly entered 7 Race Course Road. The mutual respect helped the friendship to blossom. When Jaitley cited health reasons requesting the Prime Minister to let him stay out of the Cabinet a day before Modi was sworn on May 30, 2019, it was indeed a shock to many in the party and his admirers as it meant curtain being rung down on his four-decade long political career.

The Jaitley Era

Arun Jaitley as Finance Minister will be remembered for his astuteness in bringing GST to fruition and harmonising the inter-party differences of GST Council. His negotiation skills helped as he had built a strong relationship with Opposition as a politician much before BJP became a force to reckon with. It was his sheer power of persuasion that did it.
The jury is still out whether Jaitley was the prime mover behind demonetisation coming as it did as a bolt from the blue for tackling black money and ending terror-funding. It is not clear if he went for GST implementation on heels of demonetisation by choice or compulsion. But whatever Modi did in the larger interest of the nation he was truly committed as a loyal foot soldier of the party.
For many in the rank and file, he was their mentor and several of them trained by him had later become ministers. He was a good Samaritan true to the spirit. He did much for his party without expecting praise or reward. If people forgot his kindness he seemed to have no rancour. BJP was his strength and he lived up to his task until the end for here was a man who could have asked nothing more than serving his party as a loyal foot soldier.

(The writer is Ahmedabad based senior journalist)