From handling the party organisation, finalising candidates, shooting the breeze with the media to pow-wows with diplomats and liaising with the PMO — Arun Jaitley is the BJP’s chief backroom manager in this election, reports R Rajagopalan.
Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has decided who will be Krishna to his Arjun in the heat and dust of the Lok Sabha election battle that is underway.
It is Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who he has chosen as the points-man to coordinate his 2019 poll campaign.
After Jaitley’s surgery in January, doctors had advised that he avoid travel and also not to exert much, so not for him the heat and dust of electioneering.
Hence, the proposal from Modi to serve as the backroom strategist was readily accepted by the 67-year-old Jaitley, who will be positioned at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi during the election.
Since Sunday, March 10, when the election dates were announced, Jaitley has been arriving at the BJP hq at 3 pm daily and spends four to five hours, holding meeting with various party office-bearers and senior leaders.
In 2013, Jaitley drafted the BJP’s Goa national executive resolution to project Modi as its prime ministerial candidate so he is clearly someone who both Modi and BJP national President Amit Anilchandra Shah trust implicitly.
He has also been visiting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh hq in Nagpur once a month to brief RSS leaders of the implementation of various schemes dear to the Sangh.
Jaitley is not only the link among the Union Cabinet, RSS and BJP, but also the party’s face to the leadership of foreign nations.
This is how Jaitley’s typical day has been for the last couple of days. In the morning he is at the finance ministry in North Block, concentrating on government work, and his evenings are spent at the party office.
For one hour or so every day, Jaitley brainstorms with the party’s 35 official spokespersons and guides them on articulating the subject of the day on television news channels.
He has also decided to post daily on his blog, so that BJP cadres know the mind of the BJP leadership.
Jaitley also devotes an hour a day to meet journalists of various hues, a practice that is mutually beneficial as both sides get feedback from each other.
Apart from this, he also meets three or four foreign diplomats daily. With elections looming, many countries are keen to know the political climate in the capital and the eventual outcome of the polls, and what changes in policy are likely going ahead.
Jaitley briefs the diplomats as to what can be expected.
Given his legal expertise, Jaitley liaises with the Election Commission on organisational and logistic matters.
Given the wealth of experience and expertise Jaitley brings to the table — he entered student politics through the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in the 1970s, joined Jayaprakash Narayan’s agitation and spent time in jail during the Emergency after which he joined the Jana Sangh, and later became a minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999 at the age of 47 — he has also been entrusted with the important task of processing and selection of candidates.
This, apart from his organisational responsibilities, media outreach and liaising with the prime minister’s office for the 400 mega rallies Modi plans to address in the run-up to the final phase of polling on May 19.
And given his closeness to political opponents like Sharad Pawar, Sitaram Yechury and Mamata Banerjee, and frenemy Nitish Kumar, it is very likely that Jaitley’s services will be in much demand even after the election results are out on May 23.