Guest Column

`Tough to get a boss like Arun Jaitley’

Former Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley passed away at 12:07 pm on Saturday. He was admitted to the AIIMS hospital in New Delhi since 9 August. 

Senior IAS officer Rajat Bhargava of the Andhra Pradesh cadre was part of the team that worked with Arun Jaitley in the Finance ministry (in picture on top, left). He was Joint Secretary (Budget) and worked closely with Jaitley in the preparation of the Union Budget. He remembers his former boss in this first person account. 

By Rajat Bhargava

Mr Arun Jaitley was a good boss to work with, a thorough gentleman. He delegated work, gave you the freedom to ideate and if he was convinced by the idea, he would leave the execution to you. It is tough to get such a boss.

I worked as part of his team in the Union Finance ministry between 2014 and 2016 as Joint Secretary (Budget). Working with him was easy and tough.

Easy because as a tax lawyer, he knew Supreme court judgments better than anyone else in the system. He could recall even rulings given ten years back. If you spoke about a section in the Income Tax Act, he would not need to refer to a book to know about it, he would already know what it contained. That made working with him very easy as he was a boss who knew the subject well.  

The tough part was you had to be prepared very well. He understood the subject of finance very well and was comfortable with it. He was at ease with facts and figures.

He was a great multitasker. Apart from his ministerial responsibilities, he was handling party work but he was adept at juggling different responsibilities very well.

Apart from the Union budgets, we also presented two Delhi government budgets as it was under President’s rule. It was a big advantage as he knew everything about Delhi. He would tell who to consult for which particular aspect, he would tell me about a particular area that needed to be developed. But once the work was delegated, he gave freedom on its execution.

His other interests in life included food, shawls and cricket. He was a connoisseur of good food. He had a tremendous knowledge of textiles and that went beyond just shawls of which he had a great collection. He could just touch any fabric and tell you the type of cotton it was. He understood the weaving industry very well. 

He was a voracious reader and had a good collection of books. He was fond of cricket and television news and would follow them very religiously. Sometimes at work, he would exclaim about how the Indian cricket team was doing. Basically he kept track of a lot of things even while at work without letting all that affect his ministerial work. 

One of his biggest assets was his ability to do firefighting. Even while we in his team would be wondering on how the opposition or other political parties would react to a particular proposal, he would just say “I will consult”, go across to the other side and get it done. 

He took great care of his personal staff. His OSD and PS are people who have been with him for over 30 years. He would make it a point to inquire from his staff if they had eaten their food. I have heard him say, “My food has come from home, I will eat little, you eat it too” because he knew meetings would follow and his staff would not be able to break for lunch

It is unfortunate he went so soon. 

(As told to Filter Kaapi Bureau)

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