Arun Jaitley is acknowledged as one of the best speakers in India and admitted as one of the most influential politicians in the country. He is the Leader of Opposition in the Upper House, the Rajya Sabha. Born to a lawyer father, the Delhi-ite could have moved into the highest echelons of Law or bureaucracy with his excellent academic performances and law degree, but wandered into politics instead.
In fact, his extracurricular activities as a student clearly defined his inclination towards politics. He joined Akhil Bharitya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) when he was still a student and in his early 20s (around the time he was just 22). He was under preventive detention for 19 months during the Emergency. In fact, most of the best politicians in India, who have some ideals (tattered or otherwise) today are those who cut their teeth in politics during the Emergency and/or have worked with Jayaprakash Narayan or Raj Narain.
The Student’s Movement in the 1970s was a watershed event that has shaped their thinking and working. Jaitley has worked with both, Narayan and Narain. This, coupled with his law training, has stood him in good stead and he is clear thinking, articulate quick and thorough.
Post Emergency Law Career
After the Emergency, Jaitley became a practising lawyer. He has worked in various High Courts as well as the Supreme Court. His law career had a consistent upward trajectory and during V P Sigh’s term as Prime Minister, he was appointed Additional Solicitor General. During this phase, he was involved with the Bofors investigation. As a lawyer, he had a clutch of political bigwigs as his clients. The lawyer in Jaitley was apolitical and he represented BJP (L K Advani), Congress (Madhavrao Scindia) and Janta Dal (Sharad Yadav). The much publicised Birla property case against Lodha saw him representing the Birlas. As with politicians, Jaitley was also non-aligned to companies he represented, notably representing both the two cola giants, Coca Cola and PepsiCo at different times.
Taking Politics Along
Even while he was practising law, Jaitley became a part of the BJP in 1991. Though he never fought an election, he has been Minister for Disinvestment (a post which Arun Shourie, one of the most respected journalists in India once held) and a Cabinet Minister. He proved himself to be an invaluable strategic planner for BJP organising well-oiled, well-orchestrated and successful campaigns across the years in Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi.
While these are milestones in Jaitley’s fairly illustrious career, his real landmarks are the two amendments that he has introduced in the Constitution. The first was in 2002; the 84th Amendment which has frozen parliamentary seats until 2026. This ensures that the number of existing seats in the Parliament are not randomly increased using various excuses in lieu of “support”.
The second one is the 91st Amendment, penalizing defections, introduced in 2004. He started lobbying to pass this amendment when defections and “buying” ministers and “support” to form the government had peaked. In one notorious instance that most of us witnessed, over 100 elected politicians were given hundreds of crores each and quarantined to ensure that they wouldn’t be given a higher bribe and re-defect. Both amendments do a service to the nation and citizens of the country.
Many eyes are on him in the whole current election run-up. He may just be a part of the expected and much-anticipated Congress ouster from the Centre in 2014.
By Sujata Garimella