Life Among the Scorpions

Life Among the Scorpions: Memoirs of a Woman in Indian Politics

by Jaya Jaitly

  1. ISBN: 978-81-291-4909-1
  2. Pages: 352 pages
  3. Date: November 2017


An Indian politician looks back at her journey and recounts how the going got tougher with her every success, perhaps because she was a woman.

Life among the Scorpions recounts the deeply fascinating and often tumultuous events that mark thirty years of Jaya Jaitly’s political journey.

From arranging relief for victims of the 1984 Sikh riots, to joining politics under firebrand leader George Fernandes, to becoming the president of Samata Party—a key ally in the erstwhile NDA Government, Jaitly’s rise in Indian mainstream politics invited both awe and envy. But the going has been far from smooth. Trouble began with George Fernandes sacking Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat in 1998. Jaitly became the target. She was soon hounded by Tehelka’s stings—first concerning her son-in-law-to-be Ajay Jadeja and then herself in an alleged bribery case.

Eventually, Fernandes had to resign as India’s Defence Minister, despite being the best, and Jaitly quit as the Samata Party President. Meanwhile, she spiritedly fought booth capturing in Bihar as well as fellow party men’s egos, intervened and ensured the installation of the Samata government in Manipur. All this, even as she continued her parallel fight for the livelihood of craftsmen on the one hand, and conceptualized and ensured establishment of the first Dilli Haat (crafts market place) in 1994 on the other.

With all the backstories of major events in Indian politics between 1970–2000, including her experience of dealing with the Commission of Inquiry and courts regarding the Tehelka stings, the story of Jaya Jaitly makes for a riveting read. A powerful narrative on why being a woman in politics was for her akin to being surrounded by scorpions; this hard hitting memoir offers a perspective on the functioning of Indian politics from a woman’s point of view.


Jaya Jaitly is the former president of the Samata Party, a key ally of the NDA Government (1998–2004), and an eminent expert in the traditional arts and crafts of India. She has worked closely with craftspeople since 1965 to sustain traditional livelihoods and preserve India’s crafts heritage. Having founded the Dastkari Haat Samiti, a body of craftspeople, in 1986, she established Dilli Haat a permanent marketplace showcasing weaves and handicrafts, in 1994. Her work brings together rural artisans within India, and of India, with those of Pakistan, Vietnam, Iran, Eygpt and many other countries. These programs have often been supported by the Indian Government as an instrument in diplomacy.

Jaitly was educated in the UK, Burma, Japan, India and the USA. Her published works include Craft Traditions of India (1990), Crafts of Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh (1999), A Podium on the Pavement (2005), Biju Spins Some Magic (2005), Crafting Nature (2007), Crafts Atlas of India (2012), Woven Textiles of Varanasi (2014), The Artistry Of Handwork (2014), and Vishvakarma’s Children: Stories of India’s Craftspeople (2001).

Jaya Jaitly is based in Delhi.

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