A Tribute to Mr Arun Jaitley

Mr Arun Jaitley (1952-2019).

Never make idols. When it comes to the ways of the world, the general norm is that they always disappoint when you get better acquainted with them. However, the exception to this rule was Mr Arun Jaitley, Former Finance and Former Defence Minister of India, who breathed his last on 24th August 2019. Mr. Jaitley is, was and will forever be the only individual I ever idolized. 


Mr Jaitley represented the rare breed of intellectual politicians who entered public service with the sole and true intention of serving rather than self-serving. 


My fascination with Mr Jaitley began very early in life. He inspired my decision to take up law as a career  and my interest in entering public life in the future. I have been fortunate to have witnessed the best of Arun Jaitley, through his articles, blogs, speeches and scholarly interventions in Parliament, during my formative years. 


In the summer of 2007, my father, a Solicitor and Advocate on Record at the Supreme Court, had the opportunity to brief Mr Jaitley over one of his matters. After the hearing, my father told Mr Jaitley about me being a great admirer of him. Mr Jaitley naturally presumed that I must be either a law student or a lawyer, however, on hearing that I was in just 7th grade, he was pleasantly surprised, gave his characteristic wide smile and expressed desire to talk to
me. Unfortunately, I was in school and I missed the opportunity to talk with my idol, my Guru. This incident must be relatable to an entire generation of lawyers and young men and women whom Mr Jaitley has never met yet inspired in many ways. 

For me, Mr Jaitley was like a Guru, a Guru I never met, a Guru I never spoke to. If he was Dronacharya, I felt like being his Eklavya. Although we never met, observing Mr Jaitley taught me many things: to listen and understand, to question and disagree, to treat no proposition as sacred and no objection as impious, to be willing to entertain unpopular ideas and cultivate the habits of an open mind. 


He was politically savvy, yet refreshingly transparent. He never stood on pretence. He was humble and despite being an intellectual powerhouse, he never had an air of superiority.  As a teenager, I witnessed the best an opposition party has ever performed in Indian politics. In the wake of the Jan Lok Pal Movement, one of the members from the opposition went to the extent of labelling the then PM, Mr Manmohan Singh, as anti-national. Most of the opposition benches feverously supported the MP. At this juncture, Mr. Jaitley stood up and, in one of his most riveting yet less celebrated speeches, said “As members of the political spectrum, we are on two opposite sides of the divide, akin to two parallel railway tracks; these tracks will never converge, however, they have the same destination, the destination in this case being development of India, I totally condemn any insinuations of this sort being made against any elected government”. 


This was the mastery of Arun Jaitley. He never once belittled his opponents. Observing Mr Jaitley and Mrs Sushma Swaraj as leaders of opposition in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively led an entire generation into understanding the role of a constructive opposition. I can safely say that the period 2009-2014 will, in the years to come, serve as a handbook for future opposition parties in opposing the Government of the day, while being totally constructive and committed to the national cause.


There was another very fascinating aspect of Mr Jaitley. On close observation, one will notice that very seldom was he interrupted during his speeches. To a great extent, this was because listening to any Jaitley speech was an inherently educative experience. All of his speeches were resplendent with facts, figures and a different perspective on the issues addressed. Mr Jaitley earned his respect through his erudite disposition across the entire spectrum of the political divide. The edifices of his speeches were based on a deep understanding of the issue he was speaking about. 


Mr Jaitley’s strength was his deep awareness of both, his strengths as well as weaknesses. Never did he punch above his weight. Despite being from the unelected chamber of the Parliament, his ears were firmly on the ground. He understood the pulse of India. It was this deep understanding which made him never aspire for the position of Prime Minister. In fact, he was the first among BJP’s top leadership to actively endorse, support and espouse the
cause of the then Gujarat Chief Minister, and the national ambitions of now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.


Mr Arun Jaitley had an envious career from being the youngest Additional Solicitor General of India, to being a multiple term Member of Rajya Sabha, he held several ministries in his career – Law, Disinvestment, Defence and Finance. He was truly committed to his cause. My last memory of Mr Jaitley will be of reading his article on ‘The Print’ last month, in which he very lucidly argued the Government’s case on the triple talaq law. I was very surprised to know that he wrote this article while admitted in the ICU ward of AIIMS hospital in Delhi.

I firmly believe that the best way public servants can celebrate the legacy of Mr Arun Jaitley is by bringing in civility in public discourse, encouraging the entry of more educated individuals in Indian politics and more than anything else, by learning to agree to disagree without creating a hue and cry about it.


On 24th August 2019 which coincidentally was also my birthday, I lost my Guru. Rest in Peace Mr Arun Jaitley; a part of you will forever continue living on in me.

Aditya Manubarwala

Aditya Manubarwala is a Law Clerk Cum Research Assistant at the Supreme Court of India. He is a regular columnist and commentator on issues of law, public policy and international affairs.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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