New Delhi: Arun Jaitley, the ‘go to’ man for the Bharatiya Janata Party for anything from defending the government on legislative matters to stitching together a national consensus among states for reforms, will be missing during the swearing-in ceremony of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders for the second term on Thursday.
Jaitley, 66, presided over the new bankruptcy code, which replaced an archaic system and brought dynamism into the process of rescuing sinking companies and redeploying capital wherever turnaround was unviable. This has reset the equations between lenders, shareholders and other stakeholders in the business ecosystem to a more equitable one, moving away from the old system that was abused by shareholders for long to avoid repayment of loans.
Jaitley’s other contribution was making indirect tax reform a reality in 2017 when the country rolled out a Goods and Service Tax (GST), turning Indian states and union territories into a true economic union. In the run-up to finalising the Constitutional 101 Amendment Act of 2016 to facilitate GST, Jaitley spent hours trying to convince doubting state ministers about the virtues of the new, cleaner national sales tax that subsumed a complex web of 17 central and state taxes. He also had to convince his own civil servants who were worried about a possible spike in the central government’s liability to make up for states’ losses in the new regime. “It is extremely comfortable to work with Jaitley. He takes everyone on board," according to an indirect tax official who asked not to be named.
Jaitley took a break from work earlier this year to undergo medical treatment, leaving his colleague Piyush Goyal to present the interim budget in February, in which the NDA sought to ease the pain of rural distress with an income support scheme for small and marginal farmers.
Born to a family of lawyers in 1952, Jaitley took active part in student politics and was put under preventive detention in Ambala jail and Tihar jail. He went on to become the president of Delhi ABVP, all India secretary of ABVP and later the president of the BJP’s youth wing.
Jaitley has been practicing law in the Supreme Court and several High Courts in the country since 1977. He served as the additional solicitor general in 1989 during the V.P. Singh government.
He first served as the minister of state for information and broadcasting (independent charge) in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government in 1999. Later, he also became the disinvestment minister (independent charge) and law minister under the Vajpayee government.
Jaitley was one of the top BJP leaders to endorse Narendra Modi’s candidature for prime ministership and went on to become the top Cabinet minister with the finance portfolio in the Modi Cabinet in 2014, even though he lost the Lok Sabha contest from Amritsar.
On Wednesday, Jaitley released in his twitter handle his request to Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi not to give him any responsibility in the new government as he was not keeping well. He, however, said he would have enough time to do any work informally to support the government or the party.