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1 September, 2019 11:21:51 AM

The day Heavens cried

Arun Jaitley’s son Rohan lit the funeral pyre amid heavy rain at his final resting place in Nigambodh Ghat in New Delhi as hundreds fought back tears
The day Heavens cried
Arun chala gaya

“Mera dost Arun chala gaya”,my friend Arun has gone is what India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Bahrain while addressing a huge gathering of the Indian community overseas. It is, he continued, a dilemma that here I am far away bound by duty  while battling an emotion of paying tributes to my friend Arun Jaitley from Bahrain.
But then that is how Arun Jaitley, former Union Minister would have liked it to be: duty before self. This perhaps is the reason why when Modi was debating to cut short his foreign trip to be present at his friend and colleague’s cremation, Jaitley’s family advised him against it and asked him to continue with his engagements.
On Twitter, Modi said Jaitley was admired by people across all sections of society, adding that he was multi-faceted, had impeccable knowledge about India's Constitution, history, public policy, governance, and administration.
"With the demise of Arun Jaitley Ji, I have lost a valued friend, whom I have had the honour of knowing for decades. His insight on issues and nuanced understanding of matters had very few parallels. He lived well, leaving us all with innumerable happy memories. We will miss him!" he said.
Former Union Minister Arun Jaitley, better known as BJP’s and the Government’s go-to man and Modi’s long-time friend, died in New Delhi on August 24. Modi also made a mention of how the month of August played havoc given that earlier another BJP veteran Sushma Swaraj had breathed her last: “Yeh august ka mahina…”PM had said while mentioning the demise of ‘behen’sister Sushma Swaraj too. Swaraj had died on August 6.

The PM was not off the mark on what BJP leaders are calling “back to back deaths” given that Jaitley’s, is the third death in a month preceded by Swaraj’s and former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur who was a force to  reckon with  in state politics. Even while the timing of deaths of three consequential leaders is being talked about in hushed tones within the BJP circles, mind also goes back to Atal Behari’s death in the same month last year.

However, Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur has blamed it on “black magic “ unleashed by the Opposition.

Thakur claimed that the Opposition is using 'marak shakti' (killing power) to harm the BJP leaders, adding that the 'evil power' was behind the recent deaths of former Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.

“A certain maharaj ji told me not to give up on my saadhna (meditation) as the BJP is facing a hard time and the Opposition is indulging in black magic activities to harm the efficient leadership of the BJP. Yeh hona wala hai aur aap target hai. (This is going to happen and BJP is the target),” said Thakur who spent nine years in jail for her alleged involvement in the Malegaon blasts.

But coming back to the Prime Minister and his friendship with Modi, a fact that is well known and one that Jaitley has often brushed under the carpet on grounds that personal friendship with a Prime Minister are not issues one should flag. Yet the fact remains that Arun Jaitley was Modi’s friend when he had no one else in Delhi.

Their friendship began immediately after the Emergency.

Modi appeared in his BA final year exams as an external student at Delhi University. Since Jaitley had started his political career from student politics here, both came in contact with each other.

The two were as different as chalk and cheese: Jaitley fond of non-vegetarian food  and Modi a pure vegetarian; Modi always clad in  kurta pyjama while Jaitley switched between trousers, suits and Indian attire; Jaitley  English speaking and urban while Modi comfortable with Hindi and Gujarati; and Jaitley from an affluent family while Modi belonged to the rural lower-middle class.

Yet Jaitley was sharp enough to see Modi having a long run in politics and was among those who pitched him for the Prime Ministerial slot long before anyone had even imagined it. And it was Jaitley and Jaitley alone who positioned Modi strategically for the top job. It would, therefore, not be an exaggeration to say that if Modi is the Prime Minister today he owes his rise to Jaitley, his thought, strategy, support and far sightedness.

But then that is Jaitley: fondly remembered by the vast number of friends, political leaders across party lines  and even critics who may have differed on his style of functioning but grudgingly  agree that Jaitley was, as one of his close friend’s described him,  a “4 am friend” to many and one whose credentials, ethics and value system was unparalleled. He was also among the few whose integrity could never be questioned.

In a book: The Marigold Story: Indira Gandhi and others”  authored by this writer, this point comes out clearly and is quoted thus:

“A case in point was the story of munshiana,which was the fee owed from a client to the lawyer’s staff. Inbuilt in the lawyer’s fee, it left the staff at the mercy of lawyers, who would pocket the amount. Arun Jaitley’s colleagues and friends remember how he was in the eye of a storm for challenging an age-old practice which had the ratification of some of the senior most lawyers in Delhi’s courts.

Arun Jaitley devised a method for his own practice under which he segregated the accounts – one for the staff where the money was deposited directly by the client, and the other for his fee. The practice did not go well with his colleagues, as it had set a precedence which others did not wish to follow. ‘It wasn’t welcomed by his colleagues,’ said (his wife) Dolly, but ‘Arun had stood his ground.’

The other story is about how Arun Jaitley has always rejected  freebies. When he was Union minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government in 2000, he had had been invited to inaugurate the High Court in Nainital and was accompanied by a few friends.

‘We stayed in a government accommodation but even on an official trip, Arun made it a point to pay for all the rooms. The person checking us in later told me that he had never come across a VIP pick up the tab, least of all a minister.’

This same friend was also witness to top businessmen in London queuing up to oblige Arun. ‘They would send their cars, but Arun would always take a tube. His morality is impeccable. It is these small, albeit important things which is the measure of an honest man. Many politicians would do it because they are being watched, But Arun would do it even when no one is looking.’ (Excerpts)

In fact Modi has publicly stated that Jaitley is a cut above the rest using the word “Pavitra” pure for him on more than one occasion.

Despite differences, integrity is common to both Jaitley and Modi and this held them together more than anything else. But unlike Modi, who is more  a loner,  Jaitley loved being surrounded by people. After his death many newspapers carried excerpts from the writer’s book on how Jaitley loved the good things of life:

“There was a phase when he would buy high-end watches, a Patek Phillippe for instance, when majority of Indians did not think beyond Omega. The first time I had heard of a Patek Philippe was when my uncle had lost his and was heartbroken.

Arun’s collection of Mont Blanc pens, and the exquisite jamawar shawls in his possession need mentioning. He was among the first to buy the latest Mont Blanc pen within days of its launch. It was not easy, because the brand was not available in India, so his friend Rajiv Nayar, also a lawyer, and well-known Kuldip Nayar’s son, would get it for him from someone. Between the two of them, both Arun and Rajiv they have an enviable collection.

Those days Arun would only wear a bespoke shirt from London or John Lobbs’ handcrafted shoes. But he still continues to use his favourite shaving cream and brush from Geo.F Trumpers…..Although Arun Jaitley has become more muted in his dressing, he is still brand conscious. The first pair of shoes he bought for his son, Rohan were a Salvatore Ferragamo.

While on Ferragamo, there is an interesting story…. ‘It was during a court hearing that a lady lawyer had thrown a slipper at the bench. Arun later said that had she been wearing a pair of Ferragamo shoes, she would not have thrown it.’

However, much has changed and Arun Jaitley’s has gone from being ‘flamboyance to subdued,’ said a friend of his. Now he is comfortable wearing a kurta-pyjama with a jacket, cottons in summer and pure pashmina in winter. (Excerpts: The Marigold Story: Indira Gandhi and others )

Volumes can be written about Jaitley Modi’s pyara dostand the country’s exceptional politician and a brilliant lawyer: the world will be poorer without him but  the void that will never be filled is the emotional for those whose lives he touched and left an indelible mark. The day he was cremated even Heavens cried: Arun Jaitley’s son Rohan lit the funeral pyre amid heavy rain at his final resting place in Nigambodh Ghat in New Delhi as hundreds fought back tears.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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