A veteran leader who has been associated with India’s right-wing movement since his student days, Arun Jaitley is a senior leader in India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as one of government’s most credible voices. Currently the Union Finance Minister, Jaitley will make history on Wednesday when he becomes India’s first finance minister to deliver a railways’ budget subsumed in the national budget. Until last year, the railways’ budget was presented separately by the railways’ minister.
He is often seen as a voice of reason in the BJP and enjoys credibility across the political spectrum. An objective political observer would see him as a moderate in the Hindu nationalist BJP, which over the years has become increasingly hawkish on social issues. To Jaitley’s credit, his political journey has been devoid of controversies that have marred many other Indian politicians’ careers.
He hasn’t been indicted in any major corruption scandal in a country where politicians are generally viewed as fundamentally dishonest, neither has he been ever seen practising identity politics which many leaders of the BJP are often accused of.
However, Jaitley’s fortune in popular politics has waxed and waned of late and he is not really as popular as some of his party colleagues including India’s charismatic Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He was renominated for a seat in Rajya Sabha (Upper House) after failing to win the popular vote from Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency during the 2014 national election, which BJP otherwise won in a landslide. Jaitley was dubbed as one of the top 30 losers by The Indian Express back then.
During his political career, he has held the portfolios of Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Minister of Law and Minister of Commerce among others. Under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi, Jaitley is serving as the Corporate Affairs Minister along with his prime responsibility as Minister of Finance.
He was also appointed as the leader of the Opposition in 2009.
Jaitley was born on Dec 28, 1952 to Maharaj Kishen Jaitley and Ratan Prabha Jaitley, according to his website. He did his schooling and college from Delhi before enrolling for a law course at Delhi University, where he started his political career.
Jaitley was a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP and rose through the ranks to become the president of the student body. He was first inducted into the BJP in 1980, and became a national minister for the first time under former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1999.