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
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
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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.