At equal ease with the elites and the common man

Updated: Aug 25, 2019, 11:40 IST | Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

Although outwardly very strict and even harsh at times, he was known for being very friendly with his personal staff, taking interest in their progress and helping them in every possible way

Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley

Vinay SahasrabuddheHarold Laski, a renowned British political scientist, had once said that a "leader is the one who leads the masses and, more importantly, refuses to be led by the masses". Arun Jaitley was one such leader. Suave, articulate, superb in content and skilled in presentation, Jaitley was truly a 21st-century politician. His was a different class, undoubtedly. And yet, he was able to understand the pulse of the masses, unmistakably.

Most people have seen Jaitley comfortably settled in the company of Delhi elites. But, many are unaware that he was equally at ease in the company of grassroots-level party workers and young ABVP activists. He was deeply conscious of the importance of idealism and used to recognise and respect those who were living embodiment of adherence to basic human values. He was always grateful to first-generation ABVP stalwarts such as Late Prof YV Kelkar, Prof Bal Apte and Prof Rajkumar Bhatia. "If we, ex-ABVPians, are making any difference today, Vinay, it is thanks to these towering personalities who guided us all along," he once said. There are many in politics who are ill at ease with subjects such as idealism and values, but Jaitleyji was an exception. Again, in keeping with the rich traditions of ABVP, he must have mentored a few dozen party workers, extending financial help to some of them. Although outwardly very strict and even harsh at times, he was known for being very friendly with his personal staff, taking interest in their progress and helping them in every possible way.

Basic decency in public life, relationships with every political group and an essentially humane approach while dealing with organisational issues were the hallmarks of his brand of politics. He used to return calls on his cell phone when it would be difficult for him to pick up a call. He was an avid reader, a keen TV watcher and also a passionate foodie. He had developed exceptionally great command over both Hindi and English. The range of subjects he was knowledgeable in was extremely wide: from cricket to cuisines, every aspect of life would interest him.

However, what was most remarkable of Jaitleyji was his commitment. All through his life, he scaled newer heights in every field he had the opportunity to enter. In politics, cricket as well as the legal profession, he achieved what was considered unachievable. But in doing so, he established that even high-ranking success could be achieved without compromising on your basic principles. Whether as a parliamentarian or a party functionary, he set new standards and refused to play petty politics.

Even while belonging to a certain class, he remained conscious of the expectations of the electoral mass. Politicians rarely achieve such an equilibrium before bidding goodbye. Jaitleyji, we will miss you because of these rare qualities that you possessed.

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is vice-president, BJP, and MP from Rajya Sabha.

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