When it comes to the subject of Arun Jaitley, I drop all pretensions of objectivity. I regard him as a close friend, a well-wisher and, at times, my guide to the world of politics. I camped with him in Ahmedabad for nearly a fortnight during the 2007 Gujarat Assembly election; I also spent 10 days helping him out during the Karnataka Assembly election last summer.
It is not that I agree with him at all times. In the last fortnight, we had sharply divergent perspectives on the happenings in Orissa. But our serious disagreements are laced with humorous bantering. He never questions my motives and I have no doubt of his unimpeachable integrity.
Over the past few days Jaitley has been in the news for all wrong reasons. His objection to the appointment of a BJP co-convenor for the North-eastern states has become the prism through which the party is being viewed in the media. If any other BJP had raised objections or chosen to register a protest, the matter would have been a footnote in the media. With Jaitley it is different. He is a media darling and his protest has predictably hogged the airwaves.
It would amount to breaking people's confidences if I narrate the details of the controversy. There are just a few points I would like to underline. These may help people make up their own minds about the kerfuffle.
1. Politics is not the be-all and end-all for Jaitley. He is one of India's most successful lawyers; he is up to his neck in cricket administration; and he loves interaction with friends, most of whom are not directly involved in politics. Unlike most politicians, he has a life outside politics. He can afford to take moral positions.
2. Jaitley has a fierce sense of right and wrong. Like his political colleague Narendra Modi he can be uncompromising. His affable exterior conceals a a firmly cemented spine.
3. Jaitley is central to the BJP's election management. He is the bridge to NDA partners such as Nitish Kumar in Bihar, the slippery Ajit Singh in Uttar Pradesh and the two Badals in Punjab. He is also the BJP's main fund raiser--a crucial responsibility in these difficult times.
4. Jaitley is unequivocally committed to doing his utmost for the BJP campaign. He believes that he owes it to L.K. Advani. He is impatient with the "semi-final election" theory.
At this juncture it is imprudent to say anything more. People can draw their own conclusions.