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Arun Jaitley: BJP's original 'Chanakya'

File photo of Union Minister Arun Jaitley. Photograph:( Twitter )

WION Web Team New Delhi Aug 24, 2019, 12.49 PM (IST)

BJP's articulate, suave and super strategist Arun Jaitley - regarded by some as Narendra Modi's original 'Chanakya' - passed away on Saturday at AIIMS. He was 66.

Jaitley was admitted to AIIMS on August 9 and was on ventilator support for sometime before his death today. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and other leaders visited the hospital to inquire about the health condition of the senior BJP leader.

Jaitley has been Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chief trouble-shooter for decades. Health issues paused his superb four-decade-long political career when, just before the swearing-in of Modi 2.0, he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister opting out of taking up any responsibility.

Knowing well how to work the levers of power, Jaitley was Modi's go-to man in New Delhi since the late 1990s and over the years graduated from being the legal brain warding-off court trouble to being his chief swordsman, input provider and sounding board.

Be it portraying the government's achievements or defending controversial policies or launching a fierce attack on the Congress or framing the 2019 election as one between the quest for stability or chaos, few were more effective than Jaitley given his multi-faceted experience and acumen.

To the world and the nation, he explained the global context of rising fuel prices, articulated a complex Rafale fighter jet deal in simple terms, steered through Parliament major economic legislation such as the nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) - which had languished for nearly two decades.

A moderate, Jaitley had friends across the political spectrum and was one of India's most articulate and influential leaders who brought civility and reason to public discourse.

India's former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley passes away at 66

While senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar once called him a "super strategist", PM Modi described him as a "precious diamond" at an election rally in Amritsar from where Jaitley contested - and lost - his first election ever in 2014. Still, he retained his fondness for 'Amritsari chholey' and 'kulcha'.

As the quintessential insider in the capital's political arena, he was darling of media.

Son of a successful lawyer who had migrated from Lahore after partition, Jaitley studied law and became president of the Delhi University Students' Union when Indira Gandhi declared Emergency. He spent 19 months in prison for organising a massive protest at the university campus.

After the Emergency was lifted, he began practising law and in 1980 challenged the move by Jagmohan, then Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, to demolish the Indian Express building, which brought him in close contact with Ramnath Goenka, Arun Shourie and Fali Nariman.

This association brought him to the notice of V P Singh, who upon becoming the Prime Minister appointed Jaitley as additional solicitor general, one of the youngest ever to hold the post.

He represented the government in the high-profile Bofors case during the V P Singh regime as Additional Solicitor General.

A keen sports lover, Jaitley was associated with Delhi Cricket Association for many years and is its president.

Story highlights

Jaitley has been Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chief trouble-shooter for decades. Health issues paused his superb four-decade-long political career when, just before the swearing-in of Modi 2.0, he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister opting out of taking up any responsibility.