Former Union Minister Arun Jaitley passed away at the age of 66 at AIIMS in New Delhi on Saturday, August 23, and what will forever remain etched in the memories of all, are his prolific and powerful speeches decade after decade-- whether it be in his capacity as a Parliamentarian, a senior lawyer, a top Cabinet minister, an economist, or as a crucial member of his party.
Presenting the final full budget of the first Narendra Modi-led NDA government in February 2018, then Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gripped the entire House when he spoke of making air travel affordable for all. Jaitley said “Sarkar ki pehal se hawai chappal pehenne wale nagrik bhi hawai jahaj mai yatra kar sakenge” (“Through the government schemes, even citizens wearing Hawai chappal will be able to travel in planes”)
This reference encapsulated something fundamental about Jaitley’s philosophy - working towards bringing services that were earlier considered ‘luxuries’ to the doorsteps of a 1.3 billion aspirational Indians.
While speaking about economic issues like demonetisation in 2017, the then Union Finance Minister's Budget speech took a memorable poetic turn when he said, “Iss mod par ghabra ke na tham jaaiye aap, jo baat nayi hai usse apnaaiye aap; Darte hain nayi raah pe kyun chalne se, hum aage-aage chalte hain aajaiye aap” (Do not fear at this turn and stop, accept that which is new. Why do you fear walking on a new road? We will walk ahead, you can follow.)
This couplet by itself reiterated Jaitley’s belief in uncomfortable but required reform driving change for the larger purpose of national interest.
In the Budget Speech of 2016, speaking about the economic growth under the NDA government's steadfast leadership, the then Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley said, “Kashti chalaane walon ne jab haar kar di patwar hamein, Lehar lehar toofan mile aur mauj mauj manjdhaar hamein. Phir bhi dikhaya hai humne, aur phir yeh dikha denge sabko, In halato mein aata hai daria karna paar humein.” (When those who steered the ships abandoned them during turbulent times, we have proved again that we know how to meet the waves.)
Without being caustic and acerbic, Jaitley with great simplicity called out the UPA government’s mis-management of India’s economy which had seen the country becoming a part of the ‘Fragile 5’.
Addressing a gathering on Civil Accounts Day 2016, the then-Finance Minister Arun Jaitely echoed his sense of pride and optimism for India's economy in what was one of his most memorable speeches.
“The country's macroeconomic factors are stable and the government is committed to fiscal consolidation as well as low inflation. Against this background, India stands out as a haven of stability and opportunity”, said the former Union Minister.
On 2nd April 2019, a day after the Congress party released its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the senior BJP leader took on the Congress by once again putting the Nation first.
At a press conference, Jaitley famously said, “Even though there was a drafting committee, it seems some of the points in the documents have been drafted by the Congress Presidents friends in ‘tukde tukde’ gang when it deals with Jammu & Kashmir.”
A true believer in a fully integrated India from the start, Jaitley even as the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha in 2014 vocally spoke against Article 370.
The Former Union Minister had famously said, “The BJP might be the only political party speaking against its (Article 370’s) continuation, but the sentiment is echoed by the people in this country. " He added, "We are isolated in seeking its repeal, but it is a splendid isolation. Even (former Prime Minister) Jawaharlal Nehru, at the time of taking a decision on Article 370, had said it is a temporary arrangement, which will wither. Unfortunately, over the years it has been made out to be a sacrosanct provision. "
Debating the passage of the NIA and the UAPA Amendment Bills in the Rajya Sabha in December 2008, Jaitley, who was then the leader of the Opposition, did not let his political differences with the Government in power marr the opportunity of tackling terrorism head on.
In fact, Jaitley had said at the time, "Even though it is only half a step, as a nationalist party, we will support the government. We will continue to campaign for the other half."
In the tenure of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jaitley as a Union Minister, on 8th August 2000, very poignantly in the house of the Parliament while speaking on the situation in Kashmir had said, “There are several occasions, very challenging ones in the life of a nation where we must rise above partisan attitudes. We will have to think in terms of institutions” .
The former Union Minister, who held multiple offices at the Centre through the decades, always preached the philosophy that politics could never ever come at the cost of the nation.
On October 13, 2012, demanding relief from price rise then leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said “Pradhan Mantri ji kehte hai mujhe badana padega, kyunki paise pedon ke upar nahi hota . Pradhan mantri ji aane waale chunaav mein iss desh ki janta ko ye sabak bhi siklaadenge ki agar paisa paidon pe nahi uttha toh vote bhi paidon se nahi milne waale hai aapko” (The Prime Minister says I have to increase prices as money does not grow on trees. In the upcoming elections, he may also teach people that votes too don't sprout on trees.)
On 10 June 2014, in the Rajya Sabha, then Former Minister Jaitley hit out at those who were reducing democracy to vote-bank politics and dynasties. Arun Jaitley had said, “Those who thought that political leadership doesn't grow on merit but only grows within families, Centre or states who relied on dynasties as the only institute of leadership creation, by and large have suffered a serious setback in this election.”
The former Union Minister echoed the sentiment on-ground in the nation when he said, "People don't want political instability. People want governments to govern for 5 years, they want governments to govern for five years and govern well. And whether it is dynasties or castes or religious institutions as somebody said, these will not be substitutes for governance."