Even from the heavens, former Union Minister Arun Jaitley has added another feather to his illustrious cap. Perhaps the most trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi between 2014 till the time of his untimely death on August 24, 2019, Jaitley was on Saturday conferred with Padma Vibhushan, the second-most prestigious civilian award in India.
The imprint of Jaitley’s larger-than-life persona was all over the Modi cabinet during the first term of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government. Just how much the Prime Minister trusted him was reflected in Jaitley being given additional charge of the defence ministry after the late Manohar Parrikar was asked to take charge as the chief minister of Goa. It was perhaps the first time in recent history that the same person had held two of the four big cabinet portfolios (defence, finance, home and external affairs).
Known to be close to Modi who stood by him through thick and thin of his career, Jaitley’s special ability lied in forging consensus.
A lawyer-turned-politician, Jaitley is considered the architect of one of post-Independence India’s most far-reaching economic reforms, the Goods and Services (GST) Tax. To impress upon the readers that how significant the introduction of the GST was to the Indian economy, “The One Nation One Tax” was lauded by one and all, including the otherwise critical western media. Governments before had tried to forge a consensus around it, but it was under Jaitley, helped by the mandate in 2014, that the GST finally came to fruition.
A true-blue Delhiite who started out his political career in Delhi’s student politics, Jaitley’s political acumen was recognised across the board by even the opposition parties, including Congress.
Former President Pranab Mukherjee, whom Jaitley has often been compared to, paid his last respects to the late BJP leader by calling him the “voice of reason.”
“Arun Jaitley’s death is a great loss for India,” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wrote on Twitter, as he condoled the death of his senior at Delhi University.
As the government tries to get the opposition parties on board over the Citizenship Amendment Act and as the Indian polity faces one of its most fractured moments since Emergency, the political genius of Arun Jaitley is indeed being missed.
Also watch: Former Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley awarded Padma Vibhushan posthumously