Remembering Arun Jaitleyji
- Humble reminiscences of a Great Soul
— Amba Charan Vashishth
When I came to BJP’s mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh (English fortnightly) 14 years back, some ordinary karyakartas made me understand thatShriArunJaitley is very arrogant. He doesn’t recognize people. He doesn’t accept even Namaste from people. Later, I had the privilege of having interviewed him for the fortnightly.
Gujarat assembly elections were round the corner and ShriJaitley was the election incharge there. So I needed his interview about the situation in the State and BJP’s strategy and chances in the election. I told some people that I have to interview him again for the fortnightly. I said he knows me and I will have no difficulty. But they still warned me.
In those very days, unfortunately, the senior BJP leader Shri J. P Mathur died. His funeral was to take place sometime later. So ShriJaitleyalongwith 3-4 more BJP leaders was returning to his office in 9, Ashok Road. Under the wrong impression instilled in my mind by others I greetedShriJaitleywith a “namaskaar’ to which he responded very nicely. I said, “Sir, I’m AmbaCharan”. On this he instantly said, “Why do you tell me your name? I know you well.”
I felt sorry for believing what others had said about him. In the course of time, impressions ingrained in me by some proved to be false. I found him very polite who encouraged karyakartas to rise.
On another occasion I sought an appointment with him for another interview. He asked me to come the next day at 3.00 PM. As I was going to enter his office, I found Jaitleyji coming out. He said, “Sorry, I have to go to some senior leader who had called him”.
“It’s all right”, I said, “I will come tomorrow”.
Then he asked me, “Can’t it be in the car?”
I said, “No problem. It can be done in the car also.”
“Then come”. He made me sit with him. He was so clear and at ease in replying to my questions that I got greatly proud. My more than 10 question interview was over in about 30 minutes.
About 7-8 years back he was BJP’s election incharge for Punjab assembly elections. I was in his room for another interview. In the meantime his associate O. P. Sharma (now MLA in Delhi assembly for the second time) came in and said some BJP people from Punjab had been waiting to see him. On this he burst into anger. “These people have met me 5/6 times earlier. What do they want? They don’t bother about my health. I am not going to meet anybody”, he said emphatically.
As a good associate, Sharma calmly said, “Sir, you kindly meet them for a minute and they will go back happy and satisfied that they had met you.”
Jaitlyji relented. He said, “Send all one by one.”
As OP Sharma went to call visitors, I said, “Sir, you seem to be not well. I will come tomorrow or dayafter.”
“No, no. You wait”, Jaitleyji said. “I will dispose them off in minutes”.
In 10-15 minutes Jaitleyji disposed of 50-60 persons. As a person entered, he immediately said, “Your name is under consideration….There is much opposition to you in the area…..You’ll get the ticket…and so on.”
Later, he made me put my questions. Very calmly he answered my questions. I was free in just another 15 minutes.
I am, by nature, not used to bothering senior leaders calling on them for a Namaste and no work. This was true with Jaitleyji too. I had not met him for about more than a year. ShriJaitley was then Leader of Opposition in RajyaSabha. ShriPrabhatJha, RajyaSabhaMP was also incharge of Literature and Publication Cell while I was the National Convener of this Cell. ShriJha once met him. ShriJaitleyji was so kind to enquire about me from ShriJha about me. I was just a small fry. Jhaji told him that I was very much there in Kamal Sandeshand the Cell.
Jhaji told me of ShriJaitley enquiring about me. He advised me to meet ShriJaitley. I told Jhaji that I have no politics to discuss with him. Therefore, I will certainly go, meet him and record an interview with him. I sought time and he gave it immediately. For having an interview I took along two of my colleagues in Kamal Sandesh. When I told him that I have also brought two of my colleagues with me, he immediately called them in. He enquired from them which place they belonged, what were they doing in the magazine and enquired whether they had any problem. He gladly had a photograph with all of us.
After he became Finance Minister in Modiji’s cabinet, I had no formal meeting but just chance meetings in various functions.
Jaitelyji had a multi-faceted personality. He was to-the-point on every occasion. He was very clear in his opinion. He had no time whiling away his time for nothing. He was articulate and brief. His answers to questions in interviews and while addressing press conferences were quick and sharp. Never did he ask me to change a word or sentence from the interview he gave. He was so sharp and clear in his mind that whatever he said once was not to be changed.
Shri Jaitleyji was a priceless jewel in politics, a par excellent lawyer, a lover of sports and cricket, an exceptional orator and chum of the media. As a party spokesperson, he was a doyen of the media. After formal press briefings, he would come down the dais and sit with media persons to have an informal chat with them.
His void will for long be felt by politicians, media, legal fraternity, and the common karyakarta and people.
God may give peace to the departed soul! ***
The writer had been the National Convenor of the BJP’s Literature and Publication Cell.(Courtesy: Uday India weekly)