New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley passed away on Saturday after 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.
"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 the 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 Nigam Bodh Ghat at 2 p.m. His body is being shifted to his home in Kailash Colony. It will be shifted to the BJP headquarters at 10 a.m. on Sunday for people to pay their tributes.
Condolences 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 that 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 his 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 Narendra 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."
Modi also said that he has lost a valuable friend in Jaitley. "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!"
Union Finance Minister Nirmala 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 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.