Arun Jaitley no more

NEW DELHI: Arun Jaitley, who as finance minister ushered in India’s biggest tax reforms and was the chief trouble-shooter of the BJP and the Modi government, died at the 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 complaint of breathing difficulty.
The cremation will be on Sunday afternoon at the Nigambodh Ghat. Known as a consensus builder, Jaitley was the BJP’s man for all seasons and acted as the key strategist for Narendra Modi government in its first term.
He helmed the finance, defence, corporate affairs and information and broadcasting ministries.
Leaders across the political spectrum paid rich tributes to Jaitley, a quintessential moderate who was never associated with the hard edges of Hindutva politics.
He became a trusted friend of Narendra Modi 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 implementation of Modi’s various 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.
Prime Minister 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!” the prime minister said. “I cannot imagine that I am here in Bahrain while my dear friend Arun Jaitley is no more,” he said.
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.
He was perhaps among the BJP bigwigs who made a smooth transition from the Atal-Advani era in the party to the one where Narendra Modi dominated, ushering in the rise of new generation leaders. His death is another jolt to the BJP after the demise of Sushma Swaraj, a contemporary of Jaitley and one of its prominent faces, on August 6. Party 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. (PTI)