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Arun Jaitley, Former Finance Minister and the BJP’s Man for All Seasons, Passes Away at 66

Jaitley, known as a consensus builder, was the BJP's man for all seasons and acted as the key strategist for the Narendra Modi government in its first term. He helmed the finance, defence, corporate affairs and information and broadcasting ministries.


Updated:August 24, 2019, 11:24 PM IST
Arun Jaitley, Former Finance Minister and the BJP’s Man for All Seasons, Passes Away at 66
File photo of Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Arun Jaitley, who as finance minister ushered in India's biggest tax reforms and was the chief trouble-shooter for the BJP and the Narendra Modi government, died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here on Saturday after battling multiple health issues for the last several months. He was 66.

In a brief statement, the hospital said Jaitley breathed his last at 12.07 pm. He was admitted to the hospital on August 9 following a complaint of breathing difficulty.

The cremation will be on Sunday afternoon at the Nigambodh Ghat.

Jaitley, known as a consensus builder, was the BJP's man for all seasons and acted as the key strategist for the Modi government in its first term. He oversaw the finance, defence, corporate affairs and information and broadcasting ministries.

Leaders across the political spectrum paid tributes to Jaitley, a quintessential moderate who was never associated with the hard edges of Hindutva politics.

He became Modi’s trusted friend as he smoothed the path for the Gujarat leader's rise in the BJP by helping him win key allies. Jaitley played an instrumental role in the implementation of Modi's ambitious schemes and programmes after the BJP came to power in May 2014.

His most important legacy will be rolling out of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2017, the biggest tax reforms after Independence.

PM Modi, who is on a three-nation tour, said he had lost a valued friend and conveyed his condolences to Jaitley's wife and son.

"With the demise of Arun Jaitley Ji, 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," said Modi.

In his two brief stints as defence minister, Jaitley cleared the path for ushering in a raft of long-pending reforms in the armed forces and came out with key policy initiatives with an aim to make India self-reliant in defence production.

Jaitley’s death is another jolt to the BJP after the demise of Sushma Swaraj, a contemporary and one of the prominent faces of the saffron party, on August 6.

BJP leaders mourned Jaitley's loss, remembering him as a dear colleague, mentor and guide and hailing his contribution to the growth of the party and the nation.

Jaitley, an urbane and media-savvy leader and a legal luminary, was one of the sharpest political minds not only within the BJP but also in the larger political spectrum where he made lifelong allies cutting across the ideological divide.

Paying homage to Jaitley, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders said his contribution to public life will be remembered forever.

Jaitley was the bridge that the BJP used to win over new allies, and also its warm, affable and persuasive face to bring opposition parties around on key issues.

JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was his personal friend for decades after he played a key role in ensuring that he is projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

In his condolence message, LK Advani said Jaitley was known and respected for his "sharp, analytical mind and everyone in the BJP always depended on him for finding solutions to complex issues."

"He was also someone who valued and nurtured his friendship with people across the political spectrum. As a person, Arunji will be remembered as a soft-spoken, erudite and warm hearted person," he said.

"A food lover, he never failed to recommend good restaurants to me. Also on every Deepawali, he made it a point to come with his family to our home to wish us," Advani added.

Jaitley had undergone a renal transplant on May 14 last year at AIIMS, and his health condition gradually worsened, forcing him to take frequent breaks from his work. He was also diagnosed with soft tissue cancer. He opted out of the second term of the BJP-led NDA government.

Jaitley, who had lost the 2014 general election did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, because of his ill-health. He was serving his fourth straight term in Rajya Sabha, where he entered in 2000 and went on to become the Leader of the Opposition and then the Leader of the House as the BJP came to power in 2014.

He stopped attending office since early April last year, but was back in the finance ministry on August 23, 2018.

In September 2014, he had undergone bariatric surgery to shed weight he had gained because of a chronic diabetic condition.

After his demise, Jaitley's body was taken to his South Delhi residence where several top leaders paid floral tributes.

On Sunday morning, his body will be taken to the BJP headquarters before the final journey.

(With inputs from agencies)

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