The Man Key to Modi’s Delhi Show

Likely be en­trusted with fi­nance min­is­ter and de­fence, he has his task cut out to en­sure the govern­ment has a smooth start

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics Modi - NISTULA HEBBAR

Arun Jait­ley, 61, is as much an in­sider in Delhi as PMdes­ig­nate Naren­dra Modi fash­ions him­self as an out­sider. Born af­ter his fam­ily moved to Delhi from La­hore and Am­rit­sar be­cause of Par­ti­tion, Jait­ley is a quin­tes­sen­tial Delhi boy hav­ing stud­ied in St Xavier’s School and Shri­ram Col­lege of Com­merce, part of Delhi Univer­sity.

Jait­ley, who is likely to be ap­pointed FM with additional charge of De­fence, has his task cut out. First on the agenda is a new budget, likely to be pre­sented in late June or early July. He has to de­cide if, in the in­ter­ests of growth, the fis­cal con­sol­i­da­tion roadmap of the pre­vi­ous govern­ment, should be kept in abeyance for a while. That could mean that RBI will keep in­ter­est rates high for a while as the cen­tral bank may be re­luc­tant to cut in­ter­est rates in the face of an el­e­vated fis­cal deficit. Fast-track­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Goods and Ser­vice tax (GST), which ex­perts be­lieve will boost GDP growth, will also be a pri­or­ity. Jait­ley, who has pub­licly op­posed the ret­ro­spec­tive tax, will have to take a call on whether to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to re­peal it. That would end the ar­bi­tra­tion pro­ceed­ings with Voda­fone and would send a pos­i­tive sig­nal to for­eign in­vestors. The­man­whoseper­for­mancewil­lbe key­tothe­fa­teof theMo­di­ad­min­is­tra­tion start­edlife­want­ing­to­bea­nengi­neer, though he set­tled for a course in com­merce af­ter be­ing told that he would be bet­ter off be­ing a char­tered ac­coun­tant. Dur­ing his col­lege years, po­lit­i­cal events over­took him and changed the course of his life.

Ac­cord­ing to those close to him, while his back­ground gave him a nat­u­ral predilec­tion for sup­port­ing the Jan Sangh, it was the on­go­ing ag­i­ta­tion against Indira Gandhi led by Jaiprakash Narayan which in­spired him to con­test the stu­dent union elec­tions in Delhi Univer­sity on be­half of the ABVP, the stu­dent wing of the Jan Sangh.

Se­nior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, his col­league in the Modi


and Va­j­payee gov­ern­ments, trav­elled from Chandigarh --- she was study­ing law in Pun­jab Univer­sity at the time--- to can­vass for him.

He won that elec­tions but soon af­ter found him­self in jail along with other lead­ers of the erst­while Janata Party when emer­gency was de­clared in 1975. These ex­pe­ri­ences hold pow­er­ful mem­o­ries for him. In his study, hangs a black and white pic­ture of an in­tense and young Jait­ley stand­ing along­side Mo­rarji De­sai, PM be­tween 1977 and 1979 as head of the Janata govern­ment.

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