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trounced Congress in the 2014 election.
"It hardened my political convictions, it increased my commitment, it made me rub shoulders with the top national leaders," Jaitley said.
DAMNED WITH FAINT PRAISE
Although he lost his own electoral race, Jaitley's satisfaction in the BJP's overwhelming victory over the Congress's main contender, Rahul Gandhi - Indira's grandson - will have been no less than Modi's.
Rather than gloat, though, Jaitley has damned his vanquished opponents with faint praise. Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - for a decade his opposite number in parliament's upper house - was leaving office with "dignity and grace", he wrote recently in his widely read blog.
"Only if he had stood up at the right time ... would (he) have been regarded with still greater honour," Jaitley added, accusing Singh of failing to prevent corruption and arbitrary tax rulings that stifled investment and growth.
Born into a family that migrated to India from Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947, Jaitley headed the Delhi University student union and the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP.
He has represented multinational corporations such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. in court. Since 2002, he has emerged as a leading party strategist, scripting several of its victories in state elections.
As minister in charge of trade in the last BJP government, he led India in talks at the World Trade Organization, blocking attempts by developed countries to gain greater access to emerging markets without reducing agricultural subsidies.
ON THE SKIDS
He takes charge of an economy, Asia's third largest, that is battling its longest slowdown since the 1980s. Growth has almost halved to under 5 percent in the past two years - too slow to create enough jobs for aspirational young Indians.
Inflation is meanwhile running dangerously close to 10 percent, way above the central bank's comfort zone.
"I don't want to use any harsh language," the bespectacled Jaitley told a recent news conference in his booming baritone voice, putting his predecessor as finance minister, P. Chidambaram, in the dock.
"But the finance minister inherited 8.5 percent growth, and he is going to leave behind a 4.6 percent growth rate."
Yet, in a heated campaign, Jaitley has been careful to avoid joining the public attacks on the widely respected governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, that have been launched by some of his more populist party colleagues.
Like Jaitley, Rajan spent much of his