Clash of the Saffron Titans

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Sandwiched Narendra Modi’s key lieutenants Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley are not seeing eye-to-eye.
Sandwiched Narendra Modi’s key lieutenants Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley are not seeing eye-to-eye.

Consider the feathers on the royal crown of Arun Jaitley, the trusted adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In addition to being the Finance Minister, Jaitley carries the weight of an additional portfolio of Corporate Affairs and Information & Broadcasting. Now, look on the other side — we have Modi’s trusted lieutenant Amit Shah. Imagine both being at loggerheads with each other. This is the ultimate recipe for disaster. If the birdies in the party are to be believed, all is not well within the BJP, which has been struggling under the weight of a barrage of criticisms. The latest suggests a fallout between the two pillars of the party — Jaitley and Shah. The fact that Jaitley skipped Shah’s re-election celebration suggests that the rift has more to it than what meets the eye.

If one takes the events happening within the ruling party seriously, the duel between Shah and Jaitley can become a hurdle for the BJP. For starters, it may affect Shah’s ability in steering the party from its present state, especially after the BJP’s dismal performance in Delhi and Bihar. However, with Jaitley and Shah looking away from each other, Modi would have to make a call on favouring one for the other. That too, when Jaitley was the main legal brain who helped the Modi-Shah duo with the cases related to Gujarat..

According to party insiders, relations between Shah and Jaitley were smooth until 2014. But after the CBI special court in Mumbai dismissed the charges against Shah in the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati, things changed. After his acquittal, Shah is said to have become more authoritative. He even started dictating matters to senior leaders like Jaitley.

Things turned from bad to worse when the DDCA scam erupted. When BJP MP Kirti Azad and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal came out with sharp criticism against Jaitley, the party was nowhere in the picture as far as defending Jaitley was concerned. Relegating the job to junior spokespersons, the BJP stayed away until Jaitley met Shah and complained about the stepmotherly treatment meted out to him. Only then did the party field HRD minister Smriti Irani to defend Jaitley.