Arun Jaitley and Narendra Modi: Top facts

May 27 2014, 13:03 IST
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Arun Jaitley's polish, Western-style education and strong command of English makes him an effective foil to the rough-hewn Narendra Modi. Arun Jaitley's polish, Western-style education and strong command of English makes him an effective foil to the rough-hewn Narendra Modi.
SummaryJaitley's polish and strong command of English makes him effective foil to rough-hewn Narendra Modi.

Hardened by a term in prison as a student leader and polished over a career as a successful and urbane courtroom lawyer, Arun Jaitley, India's new finance minister, could prove an effective foil for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The 61-year-old has also been given the important portfolio of defence, making him the most powerful member of Modi's cabinet. Yet, he lost his parliamentary seat in the general election, one of the few blots on an otherwise stunning victory for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has swept to power with its first-ever parliamentary majority.

Finance is arguably the most crucial portfolio in Modi's new government as it seeks to drag India out of its economic torpor and create enough jobs for the 10 million young people who join the workforce each year. Jaitley was long the front-runner to run the ministry, but the additional charge of the powerful defence portfolio came as a surprise.

"We have to restore back the pace of growth, contain inflation and obviously concentrate on fiscal consolidation," Jaitley told reporters on Monday, signalling on his first day in the job a determination not to allow India to drift.

On the election campaign trail he told Reuters that it would be important to send an early signal that major infrastructure projects tied up in red tape would finally move ahead with "five big clearances, some big-ticket clearances".

Personally close to the intensely private Modi, and commerce minister in the last BJP government more than a decade ago, party sources said Jaitley's place at the high table was never really in doubt, despite the humiliation of losing his seat.

His polish, Western-style education and strong command of English makes him an effective foil to the rough-hewn Modi in articulating the government's position to foreign investors, captains of industry and India's own central bank governor.

A patrician figure who would not be out of place in London's High Court, Jaitley is the son of a successful lawyer. He was educated in an elite New Delhi school and at the prestigious Delhi University, where he was a students union leader in the youth wing of the BJP.

Modi is the son of a tea seller who can captivate a crowd, but avoids speaking English in public.

Jaitley has told Reuters he was formed politically by the experience of being jailed for 19 months in a crackdown by then-prime minister Indira Gandhi of the Congress party. The BJP

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