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Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj: BJP has lost its star power -- all in a month

Jaitley and Swaraj -- both lawyer-turned-politicians -- had a similar political trajectory -- they both rose under the tutelage of former prime minister, late Atal Bihari Vajpayi, and they both made the current prime minister, Narendra Modi, a force to reckon with. It can, thus, be but a mere coincidence that both the BJP stalwarts passed away within weeks.

Written by: India TV News Desk New Delhi Updated on: August 25, 2019 10:56 IST
Being outspoken and clear-headed got them into the

Being outspoken and clear-headed got them into the headlines. What perhaps contributed to that was their confidence in themselves -- and that they were never afraid to walk alone. Perhaps that was why they allowed media persons to walk up to them and ask questions.

 

For the well-versed, and even for the less-informed, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for long meant a pair of familiar personalities -- faces that could draw serpentine queues of audiences with just their oratory skills, and names that would throw the wisest politicos off guard -- Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

Jaitley and Swaraj -- both lawyer-turned-politicians -- had a similar political trajectory -- they both rose under the tutelage of former prime minister, late Atal Bihari Vajpayi, and they both made the current prime minister, Narendra Modi, a force to reckon with. It can, thus, be but a mere coincidence that both the BJP stalwarts passed away within weeks.

Being outspoken and clear-headed got them into the headlines. What perhaps contributed to that was their confidence in themselves -- and that they were never afraid to walk alone. Perhaps that was why they allowed media persons to walk up to them and ask questions.

STARS IN THEIR OWN RIGHT

Though Sushma Swaraj, as the external affairs minister, was overshadowed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who undertook the major trips and diplomatic dealings during her tenure, she did not retire into the shadows. She made her mark in her own way – connecting with the diaspora far and wide, and reaching out to help them.

She would respond to every appeal for assistance, and make sure the Indian missions responded to the requests. In this way she gave the human touch to the Ministry of External Affairs, and won millions of admirers across the world, including many in Pakistan.

On the other hand, a brilliant strategist and one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most trusted colleagues, Arun Jaitley was many notches above his contemporaries in politics. Informally called 'scholar minister' in political circles, he could be the man Friday of anyone at the helm.

A consensus builder, he was regarded by some as Modi's original 'Chanakya', his chief troubleshooter since 2002 when the Gujarat riots hung over the then chief minister like a dark cloud. Knowing well how to work the levers of power, he 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 troubles in the aftermath of the 2002 riots, to being his chief swordsman, input provider and sounding board.

RIVALRY WITH OPPOSITION

Sushma Swaraj is best remembered for her fierce rivalry with senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.

Sushma Swaraj and Sonia Gandhi were respectively the archetypal 'bharat ki beti' and 'foreign ki bahu', pushing their already distinct political affiliations to a starker contrast.

A lot of the credit for the propagation of the unsaid enmity between the two leaders goes to the BJP which projected Swaraj as the modern Indian woman as opposed to Sonia Gandhi's 'Italy-born invader' image.

Their rivalry reached an entire new level when, in 2004 -- when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had secured a majority in the Lok Sabha polls, Swaraj said she would shave her head and don a white saree -- a sign of mourning in Hinduism -- if Sonia Gandhi became the prime minister.

As Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha, Sushma was a formidable and compelling speaker. She would attack the ruling Congress-led UPA without pulling any punches

Arun Jaitley also, time and again, became party to the trade of barbs between the BJP and Congress. Not only did he steer major economic legislations like demonetisation and the GST, but also defended controversial policies for the government, and for PM Modi.

There have been numerous when Jaitley replied to Rahul Gandhi's accusations, on- and off- the Parliament.

Sharp-tongued, and temperamental, Jaitley had found a way with the Opposition -- which in turn always found it difficult to argue with or criticise the BJP when he was around.

Such were his comebacks that when former Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha, taunted him in a televised national debate in 2015, he diverted the debate on the failures of the previous governments. The debate was held over the Supreme Court striking down an Act which broke the age-old collegium system of appointments higher judiciary -- Jaitley was quick to call it tyranny of the unelected.

Jaitley had also blamed the previous Congress governments for the woes of farmers and rural distress in an article posted on social networking site Facebook in December.

Furthermore, Jaitley had forged an unbreakable bond with Rajat Sharma, the editor-in-chief and chairman of India TV.

Swaraj and Jaitley were both born in the year 1952. The two did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls owing to ill health.

Together they took Modi 1.0 government to heights of sheer brilliance. And together, they left the physical world for the heavenly abode.

India, and most importantly, the BJP, has definitely lost its two most vibrant stars -- the star power.

TRIVIA

1) Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose tenure in many ways groomed Swaraj and Jaitley, died a year ago -- on August 16, 2008.

2) With Jaitley's demise, the BJP has now lost five of its prominent leaders within a year -- Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manohar Parrikar, Anant Kumar and Sushma Swaraj being the other four.

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