Sitharaman's story marks one of the swiftest ascents in Indian politics — she had joined BJP only in 2006
Shantanu Nandan Sharma
Contd from previous issue
During her tenure in the ministry, she had delegated a lot of power to the service headquarters and the three chiefs as well as to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a premier government agency that undertakes military research and development.
She would remain in office till about 8:30 pm, which meant her assistants and close officials had to work overtime at least for two-three hours daily.
Sources in the party headquarters say that she would meet any member of Parliament when a session was on, irrespective of whether she is on roster duty or not. Even during her visits to the states, she is always ready to devote the maximum time for the cause of the party. Whenever our team approaches her with issues related to Karnataka, she has been very receptive," says the state's former BJP minister and spokesperson, Suresh Kumar. He further adds how she ensured that a team of experts from Delhi flew down to Mysuru in 2017 to sensitise local traders and BJP karyakartas about the Goods and Services Tax (GST). She was then the minister of commerce and industry. In another party function, also held in Mysuru, she spent an entire day in tree planting, house visits and pamphlet distribution. For her second term in Rajya Sabha, since 2016, Sitharaman was elected from Karnataka. When she is in Bengaluru, she is known to stay with her maternal uncle who lives in the city's Jayanagar neighbourhood.
Familiar Face for India Inc
For India Inc, Sitharaman is a familiar face. Several CEOs and senior executives of the private sector met her in various forums when she was in charge of commerce and industry and then defence; the corporate sector has a key role to play in both.
Rashesh Shah, chairman of the financial services company Edelweiss, who had closely interacted with Sitharaman when she was the defence minister, says she is straightforward and decisive, and at the same time, humble. He recalls an incident when Sitharaman was the chief guest at a FICCI event. "When a defence minister visits, it is normally a big deal. But we were surprised that she was grounded, down-to-earth and she reached the venue on time," he adds. While she has largely stayed away from controversies, her visit to the flood-hit Kodagu district in Karnataka last year made headlines for all the wrong reasons, when she hit out at state minister and district-in-charge SR Mahesh over alleged changes to her itinerary. A furious Sitharaman was caught on camera saying: "Central minister follows the minister in charge here. Unbelievable!" Mahesh, a JD(S) MLA, who had then said people elected to the Upper House know nothing about the problems of common people, says that the matter is now closed. "She has just taken over as Union finance minister. We pray that she will be able to fulfil the agenda of development and also work for Karnataka," he says.
In Delhi, she may not have courted any controversy as yet even though she has been in politics for 13 years now. But she may have big challenges hereon, owing to the very public and high-stakes nature of finance ministry decisions.
She follows the formidable Jaitley in the ministry and will benefit from the PM's vote of confidence.
And when it comes to the critics whom her high office will inevitably attract, her straight-shooting style on display as party spokesperson could come in handy.
(With inputs from Malini Goyal and Indulekha Aravind)
Courtesy Economic Times