New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Former Union Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley passed away on Saturday after a prolonged illness. He was 66.
Jaitley had been admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on August 9 after he complained of breathlessness. His condition had steadily deteriorated, and he was put on life support.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart underwent dialysis on Thursday. He is survived by his wife Sangeeta, daughter Sonali, and son Rohan.
“It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Member of Parliament at 12.07 p.m. on Saturday. Jaitley was treated by a multi-disciplinary team of senior doctors,” said Aarti Vij, Chairperson, Media and Protocol, AIIMS.
The veteran BJP leader served as Finance Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s previous Cabinet from 2014 to 2018. He was also the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 2009 to 2014.
During his stint in the Finance Ministry, Jaitley was instrumental in implementing the Goods and Service Tax (GST) aimed at streamlining India’s indirect tax structure. It was also during his tenure that the controversial decision of demonetisation was taken.
Jaitley will be cremated on Sunday at the Nigambodh Ghat at 2 p.m. His body was shifted to his home in Kailash Colony where leaders cutting across the political spectrum arrived to pay their tributes. It will be shifted to the BJP headquarters at 10 a.m. on Sunday for people to pay their tributes.
Delhi Police barricaded the area around his house in view of the expected increase in VVIP and VIP movement.
Among those who arrived at the house to pay their last respects were Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, MP Hans Raj Hans and Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijendra Gupta.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Hardeep Puri, Jitender Singh, Anurag Thakur, and BJP leaders Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Manoj Tiwari, and Ramesh Bidhuri were among those who rushed to AIIMS after hearing the news of Jaitley’s demise.
Condolences poured in for Jaitley who was one of Prime Minister Modi’s most trusted colleagues and an accomplished lawyer.
President Ram Nath Kovind said that Jaitley’s death leaves a huge void in the intellectual ecosystem.
“A brilliant lawyer, a seasoned parliamentarian, and a distinguished minister, he contributed immensely to nation building,” Kovind tweeted.
Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu said Jaitley’s death is an irreparable loss to the nation.
Naidu, who was to leave from Chennai to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, cut short his visit and is returning to Delhi.
Prime Minister Modi, who is in the UAE, said he has lost a valued friend and that the BJP and Jaitley shared an unbreakable bond.
“BJP and Arun Jaitley ji had an unbreakable bond. As a fiery student leader, he was at the forefront of protecting our democracy during the Emergency. He became a much liked face of our party who could articulate the party programmes and ideology to a wide spectrum of society.”
“I have lost a valued friend whom I have had the honour of knowing for decades. His insight on issues and nuanced understanding of matters had very few parallels. He lived well, leaving us all with innumerable happy memories. We will miss him!” Modi said.
Union Home Minister Shah described it as a personal loss and recalled Jaitley’s contribution during Modi’s first term (2014-19) in making India the world’s fastest growing economy.
Union Finance Minister Sitharaman paid rich tributes to her predecessor Jaitley, describing him as a mentor with matchless astuteness.
“No words can describe the loss of Shri @arunjaitley. A mentor to many of us, a guide and a moral support and strength. Have learnt so much from him. A fine large-hearted person. Always ready to help anyone/everyone. His intelligence, sagacity, astuteness have no match,” she said in a tweet.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said Jaitley’s contribution to public life will forever be remembered.
“Jaitley had a long innings as a public figure, parliamentarian and minister and his contributions to public life will forever be remembered,” she said.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in a tweet, said: “I am sorry to hear about Arun Jaitley’s passing. My condolences to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.”
Congress leader and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony said he had a longstanding and good relationship with Jaitley.
The Bar Council of India said the “Bar has lost an eminent jurist and one of its tallest members.”
Jaitley was appointed as a senior advocate by the Delhi High Court on January 19,1990. He was Additional Solicitor General (ASG) during the tenure of the coalition government headed by V.P. Singh. During this period, he represented the government in the infamous Bofors case.
The cricketing fraternity too was saddened by the demise of Jaitley. He had served Indian cricket as BCCI Vice-President and President of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry said that Jaitley’s sudden demise was a personal loss for him – having worked closely with the former BCCI Vice-President over the years.
The Ambassadors of the US, France, China and Germany also condoled Jaitley’s death.