Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley has dismissed talk that his decision to contest the Lok Sabha polls for the first time has pitch-forked him as a prime ministerial candidates in case the Narendra Modi-led BJP fails to make the cut and needs a new face to attract allies.
Why is Arun Jaitley, BJP’s chief strategist and leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, contesting the Lok Sabha polls -- for the first time in his 35-year-long career? He spoke to Shekhar Iyer on the reasons. Excerpts:
Why are you fighting the Lok Sabha elections this time?
I never planned for a full time engagement in politics. Having grown from Delhi student politics, I settled down as a lawyer and simultaneously worked for the BJP without fighting elections. A situation arose in 1999 when I was asked to become a minister (in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government) though I had not contested the elections. In 2004 and 2009, I was asked to manage the elections. So, I did not contest. This time, I am grateful to the party for giving me an opportunity. I thank Navjyot Sidhu (the sitting MP from Amritsar) has helped me to make up my mind.
Why did you choose Amritsar?
I consider contesting from Amritsar itself is a privilege. My family has had close links with the great city, which I have identified with right from my childhood. My father belonged to Lahore, but my mother and maternal grandparents were from Amritsar. My sister was born there. All my relations on my father’s side belonged to the city. My wife was born in Amritsar though she belonged to Jammu.
Is your decision like Pranab Mukherjee’s in 2009 when he contested for the first time to silence his critics?
In my case, it is a completely different set of circumstances. I was groomed as a politician as well as a professional lawyer. From that situation, I had to transform into a full-time politician. My work in politics intensified when I was entrusted with party affairs as prabharis (in-charges) of different states. Nobody ever thought I would be cut out for so much involvement in politics.
Do you see yourself as a prime ministerial probable in case the BJP under Narendra Modi does not get enough numbers on its own and must find an acceptable face to attract allies?
Absolutely not. There is no such “Plan B” in BJP. I am fairly certain that Modi will be the next PM and the party will get a comfortable mandate to form the next government. I don’t see a problem in securing allies to back us as we emerge strong. That is the nature of Indian politics.
Do you think a PM should be elected from the Lok Sabha as LK Advani said once?
It is a preferred democratic practice that the PM belongs to the Lok Sabha but there is no constitutional requirement. It is always on the agenda of every political activist that the lower House must get its due importance. But I must confess that as a minister, I used to address both the Houses. In public life, you learn by the day. I have held four key political assignments – as a spokesperson, a minister, a party functionary and leader of opposition. Each role has taught me a lot. I am sure the next one (as a LS member) will also be part of my learning experience.
Read: Jaitley counters Sushma, says focus on winning
Is your last blog to urge party men and women to focus on “real issues” is to tick off BJP leaders who may be playing spoilers?
That’s not fair. I have been part of the BJP’s decision making process. The democratic manner in which the party decides candidates and other issues is exemplary. I wrote my blog in the context of working for the additional 2% vote in the last lap. It has nothing to do with any other issue.
Lastly, any special thoughts for Amritsar now?
Amritsar is the seat of Sikh gurus. Originally a trading place, it is grown into a major urban centre. You get the most delightful good there. My fondness for good food strengthened my ties with Amritsar. It is India’s food capital. It deserves a much greater glory.
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