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Full-time strategist

india Updated: May 15, 2009 00:25 IST
Shekhar Iyer

Arun Jaitley, by his own admission, is not a full-time politician. He loves his legal practice, cricket, exquisite watches and pens and long walks on Shimla’s Mall road. Of course, he loves partying — even though he is a teetotaler — to catch up on the latest gossip and watch old Hindi movies with his family on holidays abroad.

After his stint as the BJP’s chief strategist, a role that late Pramod Mahajan played till his death, Jaitley is the man to watch this season.

Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley, 56 BJP

USP: The tallest among the second-generation BJP leaders, Jaitley enjoys NDA PM candidate L.K. Advani’s confidence.

Personality: Known for sharp, candid one-liners on friends and foes alike.

Signature: This highly-paid lawyer drives

expensive cars, many bearing the same registration number — 6666. He also loves designer clothes.
Unlike Mahajan, Jaitley understated the BJP’s prospects initially and built up the campaign gradually. He first got RLD chief Ajit Singh to their side. And then ensured Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s presence at the Ludhiana rally to end the Congress’s hopes of winning him over.

The party has finished as a serious contender, notwithstanding the pollsters keeping the NDA’s tally at a close second to the UPA.

Jaitley admits his task will begin only when the BJP crosses the 160 mark. “The BJP will be a magnet. Many non-Congress parties cannot go with the Congress. We will tap them.”

He eyes the AIADMK, the TDP and the BSP. He often runs into Mayawati’s aide Satish Mishra in the Supreme Court complex for quick chats. But Jaitley won’t be alone in this mission.

Not only is there Advani himself who won’t hesitate to pick up the phone, Venkaiah Naidu will seek out TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu. And Narendra Modi will talk to Jayalalithaa.

Does he have the Midas touch as his admirers said after a string of BJP wins in key states?

He said, “I was given the role of managing elections. I have done it to my satisfaction. If you win elections, you are part of the success. Failure brings flak.”