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4-min read

A Father-Figure and Mentor, Arun Jaitley’s Home Was My Wedding Venue, Writes Vani Tripathi

Even bitter critics of the BJP had much reverence for Arun Jaitley. This was because he never lost that balance — whether it was his Parliament speeches as the Leader of Opposition or as the senior-most spokesperson of the party.

Vani Tripathi |

Updated:August 26, 2019, 7:25 AM IST
file photo of Arun Jaitley.

It’s a big personal blow for me that in a matter of weeks, two of the individuals I learnt so much from — Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — passed away. My relationship with Arunji was not that of a senior party leader and mentor. He treated me like a daughter and I treated him like my father.

At every possible crossroad in my life, whether political or personal, I would seek his advice. He would always keep my interests in mind while giving me any advice and ensure that’s the best for me.

The first things that come to my mind when I think about him are his composure and demeanour. His life’s value was balance. He always maintained this approach while looking at life and politics around him as he believed in “argue, debate and dissent”.

Some of the party’s bitter critics had much reverence for Arunji. This was because he never lost that balance — whether it was his Parliament speeches as the Leader of Opposition or as the senior-most spokesperson of the party.

One of the last meetings I had with him just before the elections was when he had put me in the Central Board of Film Certification. I was very reluctant to take up the job. I belong to the industry and it would be a very tall order for me.

He told me, “If people like you who can get that ‘balance’ (don’t take up the job), then who would.” I continue to work with CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi.

I have so many fond memories of him. One of them goes back to my wedding day. His home, 9 Ashoka Road, was my wedding venue.

As I was the only child of my parents and had already lost my father, he stood by me in the most beautiful way possible. Dolly aunty (Jaitley’s wife) helped me with the arrangements.

Even in complete darkness, he showed me life and I will be indebted to him for that.

On several occasions, he would ask me about my take on electoral politics. And I would always say it was tough for women in this country to take the plunge, exactly the opposite of what he thought.

Arunji, as the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had fantastically ensured the passage of the women reservation bill in the Upper House of Parliament. His speeches during the debates on copyright bill and women reservation bill were inspiring.

Javed Akhtar sahib was pushing for the copyright bill and the industry was deeply divided over the issue. Arunji and Swaraj had opened the parliamentary offices for drafting of the bill which the government of the day did not want.

It was extraordinary — a leader of Opposition helping a lyricist and fellow Rajya Sabha MP pass a bill.

Also, for me, his deep connect with artistes from the industry was amazing. I remember the day Shashi Kapoor was honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Arunji was down with high fever. I told him that Shashi sahib was in no condition to travel to Delhi and that Prithvi Theatre would be a grand venue for the ceremony.

Despite his ill-health, he went to Bombay for the function. It was for the first time that an information and broadcasting minister of the country had done such an act. Soon after, Shashi sahib passed away.

I remember the several times when it came to looking at the contribution of the film industry. When the GST Council was formed, he agreed to meet industry representatives. It was not just about his steadfastness and his compassion towards people, but also his outreach efforts.

He became a reference point for me at various junctures of life. Whenever he saw me feature in television debates or read my articles, he would give me a feedback.

There were times when I would get angry during debates. He would call me up and say, “keep the note lower… lower than it is”. I understand why he would say that… because over the past few years, news debates have become cantankerous and loud.

I remember the time when Vishwaroopam was banned by the late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa. I was called for a prime-time debate. As a national secretary of the party, I was confused about what position I should take.

He told me to say exactly what I think is right. I was aware that Jayalalithaa and her party, AIADMK, was a potential political ally of the BJP in the upcoming elections.

I took my stand and spoke in favour of the film’s release and against any ostracisation of Kamal Hassan for political reasons. The rest is history.

I will remember him for his compassionate spirit and amazing calm. Thank you for being there, sir.

(The author is former BJP national secretary and an actor. Views are personal)

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