The 90-minute interaction in which over 500 prominent citizens in Mumbai, including top industrialists, politicians, socialites and dignitaries from various fields participated, left most wanting to know more of Jaitley and the new governments agenda over the coming months and years. Among those present included Deepak Parekh, Adi Godrej, Rahul Bajaj, Shobhaa De, Zia Mody, Congress Milind Deora, BJP state president Devendra Fadnavis, Rama Bijapurkar and former Mumbai sheriff Indu Shahani.
With his very first answer, Jaitley got the crowd interested. Explaining how it was to work with Modi compared with his earlier stint in the NDA government led by AB Vajpayee, he said: Modi works from morning till night. He follows progress of major policies of each department. At 9 pm, if you visit a minister's office, you will find 50% of the staff still working. Earlier, Jaitley said he used to leave office by 6 pm for a cup of coffee with friends at India International Centre. Now I leave at 11 pm, he said.
Jaitley also said the media hardly got to know what the government was doing or any of its decisions before they are made public. Conventionally, Indian media had become part of the establishment aware of what's going to be decided in the Cabinet, what move is being planned. They could predict a Cabinet or list of governors days in advance, he said.
That, of course, has changed now. And according to the minister, that's how it should be because the fun of the decision is lost otherwise. He said the media doesnt have too much of an idea of what's happening. That's an issue. But that's how it should be, he quickly added.
The other part, Jaitley said, is that the media has to live with a government where it can't report a corruption scandal everyday. The government is taking decisions one by one. So it is becoming difficult even to criticise most decisions. We are much better off than we were. For instance, the Congress criticised us because our foreign secretary decided to meet the Pakistani foreign secretary. There was shelling on the border. When we called it off for a good reason, they question why we did that, he said.
When adman Suhel Seth wished to know why the laws of the country were severely against men even though there are many single men in the power of influence today, Jaitley had the right answer for him. Try and become prime ministers, pat came his advice for single men as the house erupted in applause.