Mr. Arun Jaitley is one of the most senior leaders of the opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) in India. If the BJP comes to power following the current national election, he is the most senior minister from the last BJP government (1998 to 2004) expected to figure prominently in the new cabinet. During the BJP’s last time in office, Mr. Jaitley served first as law minister, then as minister of commerce & industry.
Why has he been in the news?
With growth at a decade low and high entrenched inflation in India, investor demands for far-reaching economic reforms have been gaining traction. A large part of the appeal of the BJP’s candidate for prime minister, Mr. Narendra Modi’s rests on his reputation as a business-friendly leader pursuing sound economic policies, which Mr. Jaitley has emphatically highlighted.
Of specific interest to American business, Mr. Jaitley criticized Congress on the proposed retrospective tax, a move he believed hurt the investment climate in the country. The BJP’s pre-election Manifesto underscored this sentiment, pledging to end “Tax Terrorism.”
Mr. Jaitley also noted that in order to spur growth, investment — both domestic and foreign — was required. However, the BJP insider was quick to clarify that while the party was open to FDI, it remained opposed to FDI in multi-brand retail.
What can we expect from him?
Opinion polls indicate that Mr. Modi is the leading candidate to be the next prime minister. Mr. Jaitley will play a decisive role in economic policy-making in a Modi cabinet. He will likely be given an important ministerial portfolio, perhaps the job of finance minister, in order to ensure the next wave of economic reforms is pushed through.