Arun Jaitley at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi, May 17: None in the BJP was willing to brook the “J” question.
Would Arun Jaitley be an A-lister in Narendra Modi’s team after losing from Amritsar? Would he join the government on peril of detractors beginning a campaign on the wisdom of inducting “losers”?
“The question doesn’t arise (of him not being in government). Jaitley is one of Modi’s oldest allies in the party, he was Modi’s insurance cover whenever Modi was faced with a crisis. In short, he backed Modi through thick and thin,” a Rajya Sabha MP said.
Although consultations on putting a cabinet in place are expected to begin on Sunday, leaders have been assessing each other’s views.
Sources admitted few, if anyone, were privy to Modi’s mind on his prospective colleagues. “But this much can be said that he wouldn’t want Jaitley to be out of it because of their mutual trust quotient,” a source said.
Amit Shah, the general secretary credited with pulling off Uttar Pradesh for the BJP, has long been a Modi associate. “But think of the four top positions in the government, Shah doesn’t fit into the scheme,” a source said.
“Jaitley has held important ministerial jobs in the Vajpayee government, he has been an effective Opposition leader, and… has batted convincingly for Modi against a barrage of accusations….”
A few in the party hinted that Jaitley should “cool off” for a while to keep rivals and detractors quiet. Had the BJP not pointed fingers when Shivraj Patil was inducted in the Manmohan ministry in 2004 after losing from Latur?
Besides, in 1998, when Jaswant Singh and Pramod Mahajan lost their elections, Vajpayee had made them wait a while before absorbing them in his ministry.
“With Jaitley, the equation is different. He and Modi go back a long way… Jaswant could not have claimed to share the same… relationship with Atalji,” a source said.
Others said the issue was not about personal equations. “Modi has to begin his innings on a strong and positive note because of the big expectations from him. He is new to Delhi’s ruling establishment. Whatever exposure he had in Delhi was in the BJP organisation…, ” a source said.
“Jaitley has been in the government, he has been in Parliament for years and knows leaders of other parties quite well. His experience and expertise are attributes Modi can rely on….”
Sources rued Jaitley’s decision to pick Amritsar to make his Lok Sabha debut when he was given “safer” options such as New Delhi and Jaipur.
“It’s a pity that Jaitley, who oversaw elections in so many states and nearly always swung them for the BJP, lost his own. But a strategic miscalculation cannot be the reason for denying a person a place in a cabinet,” a BJP spokesperson said.
Sources said the Prime Minister-designate was “keen to put in place a core ministry” that could be sworn in along with him next week.