Nirmala Sitharaman: Protégé of Arun Jaitely & woman of destiny


Photo credit Rashtrapati Bhavan

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, February 1: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has etched her name in the coveted league which has luminaries such as Morarji Desai, Manmohan Singh, Yashwant Sinha, P Chidambaram and Arun Jaitely. Sitharaman is the sixth Finance Minister to present five consecutive Budgets.

By all accounts, Sitharaman may also present the sixth consecutive Budget next year, which will essentially be a vote on accounts, for Lok Sabha elections will be held in 2024. Sitharaman’s journey to become a destiny woman is solely accounted for her unparalleled faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among the spokespersons in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, she towered above rest of her peers to enter into the top four Cabinet Ministers, Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

Late Jaitely was the mentor to the BJP spokespersons before Modi led the BJP to power at the Centre. Even while Jaitely became a Cabinet Minister and heavily occupied with multiple portfolios, as Modi trusted him the most in the council of ministers, he continued mentoring the BJP spokespersons. Jaitely spotted the talent in Sitharaman, and pitched her to argue the case of the Modi government and the BJP. Sitharaman over the years became the favourite spokesperson of late Jaitely.

Modi wanted ministers who would be aggressive and combative in defence of his government. Late Jaitely helped her enter the council of ministers, and soon she became a deputy to him. He would often tell reporters during informal interactions with journalists that “Sitharaman is very sincere, and has eyes for details, while being most patient with the officials to pick up the finer aspects of the Ministry of Finance”.

While Sitharaman is in the league of titans of the Finance Ministry, economists still underrate her for making impacts in the direction of the economy. Desai was the FM in years when India was a closed economy, still struggling to ensure food security, while shadows of wars loomed on the horizon.

Arguably, Manmohan Singh, Yashwant Sinha, and P Chidambaram share the honours for giving decisive direction to the Indian economy when the country faced serious challenges. Desai and Singh went on to become Prime Minister of the country. Singh forced open the economy at a time when India faced balance of payment crisis. Sinha laid the foundation of the economy. Chidambaram brought in structural changes.

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