Opinion

Tribute : Arun Jaitley, the go-getter

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By Vijay Jolly, I came across Arun Jaitely, my senior in Sri Ram College of Commerce, on my first day on the Delhi University campus at Maurice Nagar in July 1977 after attending my classes in the SRCC.

I was about to board a No. 6 double-decker bus from Maurice Nagar to Tilak Nagar, when I saw a students’ protest meeting at an intersection of the campus. I was attracted to this meeting where the students were protesting vociferously against then prime minister Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party for having imposed Emergency across India on June 26, 1975. It was officially issued by then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution. During this period, civil liberties were suspended and the Press was censored. Thousands of Gandhi’s political opponents were jailed.

The final decision to impose Emergency was proposed by Gandhi, agreed upon by then President and thereafter ratified by the cabinet and then the Parliament (from July to August 1975). 

Later, I learnt that Jaitley, the outgoing president of the Delhi University Students Union, was arrested on June 26, 1975 while demonstrating against the imposition of Emergency.

The draconian Emergency was lifted on March 21, 1977. On the first day of the university opening, the DUSU had organised a big protest meeting at Maurice Nagar Chowk and I attended it since I was a fresher and a first day student at DU. I was a merit list holder in the 11th class with 82.5 per cent marks in 1977 and got admitted in prestigious SRCC where the alumni were Arun Jaitley and a host of other toppers. So, I was honored and blessed.  

At SRCC, I met three dynamic students and political leaders of modern era—Arun Jaitlely (DUSU President 1974-75), Vijay Goel (DUSU President 1977-78) and Rajat Sharma (DUSU Gen. Sec. 1977-78). I personally introduced myself and shook hands with them. I was fascinated by Jaitley who was eloquent both in English and Hindi. He was the smartest of the three—wearing a brown leather jacket and black googles—though I still remember Rajat Sharma’s speech “ghaas kaisi bhi ho, chasma hara hona chahiye” (whatever may be the colour of grass, one should see it with green specs). This was my first contact with the ‘Jaitley & Company’, in 1977. 

In 1977, Morarji Desai led the Janata Party to a parliamentary victory, defeating the authoritarian Congress led by Indira Gandhi. Arun Jaitley, as a star youth leader, spearheaded the political campaign all over India in close company of seasoned political leaders including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Lal Krishna Advani, Babu Jagjivan Ram, George Fernandes, Madhu Limaye, Piloo Mody, Nani Palkhivala and Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia. So, Jaitley became a household youth icon. 

Jaitley later became a practising lawyer in Tis Hazari & Delhi High Court. He was brilliant at bar. 

Jaitley coordinated the youth and student politics in Delhi University. He fashioned my victory as DUSU general secretary in 1978 and as president in 1980. He groomed, promoted and supported many student leaders of the ABVP and the JVM.

In 1984, while doing MCom from South Delhi Campus, I organised “Chhatra Shakti Awards” and honoured Arun Jaitley (youth icon), Dev Anand (evergreen film star), Maneka Gandhi (political leader) and Prabha Dutt (HT chief reporter).   

In later years, Jaitley became a seasoned political leader and a minister in the Vajpayee government. For many years, Jaitley articulated the BJP philosophy on Indian and overseas TV channels. As a spokesperson, Jaitely glittered and outperformed all others in live debates.   

Jaitley had close friendship with Narendra Modi for many years, even before Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat. 

I remember, in 1999, I accompanied Jaitley to the Raymond (M&N Sons) showroom at Regal Building in Connaught Place to buy a cream-coloured kurta-pajama material for Modi. Jaitley personally inspected a dozen materials before he selected two best cream colours for his best buddy Modi—the prime minister of today but, off-course, an incognito Sangh Pracharak toiling hard in the BJP then. What golden memories—the personal care, attention, love and affection of Jaitley for Modi! I witnessed it 20 years ago.  

I was a rocking BJP MLA from 2003 to 2008 in Delhi Assembly. It was Arun Jaitley who convinced me to contest from the New Delhi seat against then Congress chief minister Sheila Dikshit in 2008 Delhi assembly polls. Jaitley motivated me to publically challenge the then powerful chief minister. I dutifully followed his dictates. I lost New Delhi polls narrowly, but won the hearts of millions with my style and never-die spirit. All thanks to Jaitley’s motivations!

In first week of April 2019, I had the honour of meeting and greeting Arun Jaitley at his 6 Krishna Menon Marg residence for a 35-minute long personal interaction. He was unwell after his January 2019 soft tissue cancer surgery in the US. 

But I found Jaitley full of life. He was less audible and soft-spoken, but inquisitive about the welfare of former colleagues and friends in and outside the political domain. It was surprising for me.

To cheer him up, I said “Jaitley ji, last week when I saw you on TV screens, you looked weak and frail. But today you look healthy, cheerful and in better state of health”. I thought I had motivated him. 

But with chocked voice Jaitley quipped, “Jolly, you are a jolly good fellow. You always talk positive. I like this trait of you. But you can’t imagine the sufferings and pain I have gone through. Wish no one experiences it”. It pained me deep in my heart. 

But I laughed to cheer up my Delhi University senior whom I always referred to as the Big Boss—Arun Jaitley, the go-getter. 

Who knew Jaitley would depart for heaven so soon thereafter. I am in tears while penning this anecdote on a legend.

* Article is published in the week and written by Vijay Jolly who is a senior BJP leader

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