Several leaders needed to fill Arun Jaitley’s void
Responsibility to fall on Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman among other leaders.
Jaitley, who was cremated on Sunday with full state honours, was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s key troubleshooter. His was a role often compared to what former President Pranab Mukherjee executed in the Manmohan Singh government or Pramod Mahajan in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime, though Jaitley drew tremendously from the strong political authority that Modi’s stupendous majority gave to the NDA.
While Modi could not attend Sunday’s funeral due to his ongoing official three-nation visit, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah along with other Cabinet ministers, chief ministers andsenior politicianswere present. Leaders from other parties included Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, SAD leaders Sukhbir and Harsimrat Badal, NCP leader Praful Patel and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Jaitley’s son Rohan performed the last rites in the presence of his mother Sangeeta.
Jaitley rose to prominence after Mahajan’s untimely death in 2006, donning the hat of a key strategist, spokesperson and lead player in initiating a process to transform BJP’s overall perception.
That process led to L K Advani gradually ceding space after the defeat in the 2009 elections. Jaitley himself became Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha in that period of change – a timely transition that eventually saw the emergence of Modi on the national stage.
With Jaitley no longer by his side, Modi’s dependence on Shah is likely to increase. Having proven himself as a successful election strategist, Shah has already made an impact as home minister and tasted success in navigating tricky bills through Parliament in the last session. As for dealing with regional leaders from south India, the responsibility will fall on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP general secretaries BL Santosh and Murlidhar Rao. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will have to play a greater role in dealing with allies while BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav appears to have taken on the mantle of thwarting the opposition moves in Rajya Sabha through his grasp of House rules. Besides this, Jaitley’s legal acumen is something the BJP will find difficult to replace, though a lot is bound to fall on Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad from now on. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar will have the difficult task of managing government perception.