Arun Jaitley – In Thoughts and In Action

For someone with a Right-of-Centre political thought in India, the first roadblock in nurturing his belief-system is drawing a blank slate while seeking out thinkers, intellectuals and authors who could help frame his or her thought-process. The Right-of-Centre space in India has always been clogged by rhetoric, emotion, and ideologues. In such a scenario, Arun Jaitley must be remembered for being a bright beacon of measured arguments, calculated thoughts, and sharp rebuttals.

It will not be an overstretch to say that most of the leaders of my generation who are comfortable with a Right-of-the-Centre narrative have at some point resorted to one of his countless speech to attain a better perspective on issues. To be able to provide intellectual leadership in an otherwise barren landscape would be Arun Jaitley’s unique achievement. It is doubtful that the role he played as the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha can ever be replaced or even recreated. I can earnestly say that a great bulk of my initiation in following politics was through learning from his speeches as a teenager.

I also had the good fortune to convey this to him when I briefly met in Connaught Place in 2014. He was the leader of the opposition at that point, and like a true Delhi-wala came for a stroll with minimum security. He immediately noticed that I was wanting to have a conversation and brought about his welcoming smile to make me comfortable. The brief conversation I had with him also gave me an idea of how ubiquitous his presence was in Delhi and how many careers he shaped or witnessed shaping. When I mentioned that I went to Dyal Singh College, he immediately went into a recall of how the previous principal was his good friend. This was him in a nutshell, cultivating countless relationships with any thoughts of favor or fortune, helping people without expectations and being jolly about everything.

I am made to recall two of his finest moments in the two forums he mastered, law and politics. In politics, the greatest speech of the 16th Lok Sabha, in my opinion, was made on the occasion of constitution day in 2015 by Arun Jaitley. It was special for two reasons. First, that it was for the first time since the fundamental right to property was removed in 1977 that somebody had mentioned it in the parliament. In his speech, he besieged the parliament to think about the consequences of getting carried away by the economic order of the day and removing a fundamental right that otherwise could have given protection to countless farmers from arbitrary land acquisition. The importance of his statement might become more apparent if one takes up a minor study in how the right to property is a guarantor of the economic order in society. A brave move to take the parliament back to its gravest blunders. The Second was how he remains to be the only politician who defeated Godwin’s law by invoking Hitler and still winning the debate. If you want to know what I am talking about, just watch the last 4 minutes of his speech and it will guarantee put a smile on your face.

In law, few of us might be aware that Arun Jaitley appearing in the case of Sudesh Jhaku v K C Jhaku was one of the first person to argue that the definition rape under the Indian Penal Code required reform with the word “penetration” to be given a more expansive meaning so as to provide protection to all victims. This subsequently became the law much later. But Jaitley’s ingenious attempt to move the Court to bring in reform only reminds us of his ability to master arguments and buttress it with legal acumen.

His demise takes away an opportunity that most of us in the Right-of-the-Centre ecosystem crave, an opportunity to learn from his nurturing hand, to be a part of his coterie, which meant to be blessed with his guiding attention and to be more adept as he always was. In memoriam – Arun Jaitley – Lawyer par excellence, Politician, Cricketer, Spokesperson, and a wondrous human being.

Image Source: Flickr Deccan Herald

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