Former finance minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley died at the age of 66 yesterday.
Jatiley, suffering from prolonged illness, was admitted to New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences on August 9 after complaints of breathlessness and was put on life support.
“It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Mr Arun Jaitley, honourable member of parliament and former finance minister, at 12.07pm on Saturday,” the hospital said in a statement.
Tributes poured in for Jaitley who was one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most trusted colleagues and an accomplished lawyer.
President Ram Nath Kovind said Jaitley’s death leaves a huge void in the intellectual ecosystem.
“Extremely saddened by the passing of Shri Arun Jaitley after battling a long illness with fortitude and dignity. A brilliant lawyer, a seasoned parliamentarian, and a distinguished minister, he contributed immensely to nation building,” he tweeted.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said Jaitley’s death was an irreparable loss to the nation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in the UAE, said he has lost a valued friend.
“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!”
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid rich tributes to her predecessor, 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.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said Jaitley was a great orator and an outstanding parliamentarian.
The country has lost a great leader who always worked for the betterment of society, Singh said.
“He was an eminent lawyer, an excellent orator, a very good administrator and an outstanding parliamentarian. In his death the country has lost a great leader who always worked for the betterment of society,” he said.
Congress president 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 and former defence minister A K Antony said he had a long standing and good relationship with Jaitley.
“He was a person who used to maintain a very good relation with all, irrespective of political affiliations. He is certainly going to be missed by all those who knew him,” said Antony.
Lawyer-turned politician Jaitley held the key portfolios of finance and corporate affairs as well as defence during Modi’s first term.
He oversaw the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax – India’s biggest tax reform since independence.
His health had deteriorated since last year after he underwent a kidney transplant and a subsequent cancer diagnosis.
Jaitley did not contest the 2019 parliamentary polls and opted out of the new government, citing “serious health challenges.”
His death comes as a setback to BJP which has lost two top leaders in the recent weeks.
Former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, another prominent BJP leader, died at 67 on August 7.
A member of the upper house of parliament or Rajya Sabha from 2009-2019, Jaitley was known as an eloquent speaker with friends and admirers cutting across party lines.
He often served as a trouble-shooter for the Modi government.
Born in 1952 in New Delhi, Jaitley trained as a lawyer and joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student organisation.
Jaitley was an active student leader in Delhi and spent 19 months in jail for joining protests against the imposition of the state of emergency by former prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 during which liberties were curbed.
Jaitley was a prominent young leader in the anti-corruption movement led by activist Jayaprakash Narayan.
He joined the BJP after its formation in 1980 and rapidly progressed on the path of becoming a successful lawyer and politician.
He practised law in various high courts and the Supreme Court and appeared in court on behalf of multinational corporations.
He stopped practising law in 2009 after he became leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Jaitley was a member of the BJP’s top decision-making body, a spokesman for the party and held various ministerial posts in the coalition government led by the BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee from 1999-2004.
Known to be sociable and a keen lover of cricket, Jaitley was a paradoxical mix.
“I am economically liberal. I’m conservative on issues dealing with sovereignty, terrorism and separatism. Then on the gay rights issue, I was one of the first people in the BJP to speak on this subject,”
Jaitley said in a 2016 interview published in the Hindustan Times newspaper.
He supported ending an archaic Indian law that criminalised homosexuality.
Last tweets show how much he missed politics
Arun Jaitley may have been battling with prolonged illness, but nothing could keep him away from taking part in the political discourse. Till the time he was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Services where he died yesterday, Jaitley continued tweeting.
His last tweet came on August 7 when he paid tributes for Tulsidas Jayanti before tweeting how heartbroken he was at the demise of his cabinet colleague Sushma Swaraj on August 6.
But it was his series of tweets on August 6 on the abrogation of Article 370 that prove how much he missed politics. Even when he was away from it owing to his critical health, he could hardly keep himself from commenting on issues that mattered.
In a thread of 10 tweets, Jaitley congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for axing Article 370. “Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shri Amit Shah achieved the Impossible with the new Kashmir policy. In my blog today, I have analysed the impact of this decision, and history of failed attempts on resolving the J&K issue,” the ailing former finance minister had said.
“The J&K history of the past seven decades shows that the journey of this separate Status has been towards separatism and not integration. It created a separatist psyche. Pakistan was more than enthusiastic in trying to exploit the situation.”
Jaitley then delved into the history of militancy in the valley, saying, “By 1989-90, the situation of J&K had gone out of control and separatism with terrorism picked up. Kashmiri pandits, an essential part of Kashmiriat, suffered such atrocities which only the Nazis had inflicted in the past. The ethnic cleansing took place and they had to move out.”
He stressed on how Kashmir was changing. “The last ten months have not seen any protest. Not even in Srinagar. Law and order enforcement, making life safe for lakhs of Kashmiris and pressuring handful of separatists and terrorists has been at its best. The next logical step obviously is total integration of the state. The decision to reverse the situation created by Panditji needed clarity, vision and determination,” he wrote, referring to India’s first prime minister Jawaharal Nehru.
“It also needed political courage. The prime minister has created history through his absolute clarity and determination,” the ailing politician said, taking a dig at the Congress.
His attacks on the grand old party continued. “India’s most beautiful state has not had investments from even the hotel chains. Consequently, there are no new jobs, no revenue for the state. These constitutional provisions are not cast in stone. They had to be removed/diluted through the due process of law that is done now.”