On August 24, 2019 India’s former finance minister and a leading political & intellectual figure Arun Jaitley passed away. History can’t forget Arun Jaitley because at many of the historical milestones of independent India, Jaitley was present, not as a by-stander, but as a key architect in shaping those moments. Let’s recall such moments as a true tribute to Arun Jaitley.
Fight Against Emergency
The fight against the emergency in 1975 is a defining moment in history. It was a fight for democracy where rights of the people were taken away by the government. Arun Jaitley was just 22 years old when he stood up against the emergency as a student leader and was jailed for 19 months. He was with the anti-corruption movement of Jayaprakash Narayan at that time.
Anti-Corruption Fight – Exposing Bofors
Arun Jaitley did the paperwork for the investigations into the Bofors scandal when he served as Additional Solicitor General between 1989 and 1990. S Gurumurthy in a tweet has recounted how Arun Jaitley had stood for the freedom of the press in Rajiv Gandhi’s era.
Arun Jaitley & me came together to fight the Indian Express demolition case in 1980. From then on with Jethmalani & Arun Shourie we became the fearsome 4 for the Rajiv/Sonia congress. With mutual love we respected our differences too. I have lost a friend & a colleague.
— S Gurumurthy (@sgurumurthy) August 24, 2019
This credibility that Jaitley had gained in his formative years in fighting corruption helped him and his party put forth a trustworthy narrative on important issue. When the opposition has tried to sow doubts over Rafale deal which was so crucial for the national security, Jaitley factually rebutted every claim of the opposition. He also brought back the memory of Bofors in the process.
Role in Economic Reforms During Vajpayee Government
Though the process of liberalising Indian economy started in PV Narasimha Rao’s era, it attained great momentum during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government. Arun Jaitley was appointed the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting (Independent Charge) in the Vajpayee government. He was also appointed Minister of State for Disinvestment (Independent Charge), a new ministry created for the first time to give effect to the policy of disinvestment. Thus, many of the economic opportunities such as a greater number of TV channels etc, were shaped up in that era and Arun Jaitley played a major role.
GST & IBC – New Financial Discipline for New India
GST had remained just a pipe dream until Modi government came to power. One of the main hurdles seemed to be bringing all states on board. Arun Jaitley had put in great efforts to shape GST Council-comprising state finance ministers with the power to set the tax rates.
Major part of the credit in cleaning the NPA mess created by the UPA government also goes to Arun Jaitley’s tenure as FM. Creating a framework for a time-bound solution for bankrupt companies under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) is a historic move, the fruits of which the nation is going to cherish in the future.
Abrogation of Article 370
Though Arun Jaitley was not part of the government when a historic decision to abrogate Article 370 was made, history will remember him as one among the earliest votaries of abrogating Article 370 and articulated it on behalf of BJP with legal standpoint.
BJP at present has interpreted the abrogation of Article 370 as an issue of ‘giving due rights to certain sections in the valley’ as against the argument of the opposition camp that the abrogation is about ‘taking something away’.
If you revisit a blog from Arun Jaitley in December 2013, his argument against Article 370 was also framed in the ambit of ‘The Anti – Daughter position in Jammu & Kashmir’.
So, it is only apt to say that in the shaping of some of the major historical moments of Independent India, Arun Jaitley was there as a major contributing factor.