Arun Jaitley is India's New Finance Minister

A file photo of Arun Jaitley
A file photo of Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley, the 62-year old confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is India's new finance minister. Mr Jaitley has also been given the additional charge of defence.

The leader of opposition and a powerful BJP voice in the Rajya Sabha for years, Mr Jaitley lost his first Lok Sabha election from Amritsar this year, but that setback has not prevented him from bagging one of the top assignments in the new government.

Mr Jaitley is a former commerce minister and is regarded as a capable administrator. He is one of the few people in the party who has experience, but is also not too old at 62. Mr Modi has picked a council of ministers with 75 as a cut-off age.

Like outgoing finance minister P. Chidambaram, Mr Jaitley is a corporate lawyer and is seen as a moderate in the BJP. He has been practicing law in the Supreme Court and several High Courts since 1977 and is currently counted among the country's top-most lawyers.

Mr Jaitley was appointed Additional Solicitor General by the VP Singh government in 1989 and did the paperwork for the investigations into the Bofors scandal.

He emerged as a key strategist for the BJP after scripting many victories for the party in state assembly elections. Both in 2002 and 2007, he was involved deeply in the successful campaigns of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

As the country's finance minister, Mr Jaitley faces huge expectations and challenges. India is growing at the slowest pace in a decade and high interest rates and inflation have taken a toll on sentiments. The investment cycle has stalled and many key reforms have been shelved due to lack of political consensus. The country's finances continue to be precarious and Mr Jaitley will have to walk a tightrope between growth and cutting deficit, analysts say.

Mr Jaitley is likely to be a popular choice with investors. Market analyst Hemindra Hazari told NDTV that markets want a pro-reform finance minister, who can boost share prices - things that Mr Jaitley can do.

"His name has been doing rounds for some time. Corporates, who have supported Mr Modi, they have not opposed him," said Mr Hazari.

Mr Jaitley's appointment would likely be met with approval by markets, Nomura analysts say.

Born in 1952, Mr Jaitley did his schooling at St. Xavier's School, New Delhi, and graduated from the capital's elite Shri Ram College of Commerce in 1973. A year later, he became the president of the Delhi University Students Union. He was under preventive detention for a period of 19 months during emergency after which he decided to take up law as a career, following into his father's footsteps. Mr Jaitley passed his law degree from the University of Delhi in 1977.

Mr Jaitley married Sangeeta Jaitley in 1982 and has two children, son Rohan and daughter Sonali.