Even before the nation could come out of the shock of former Union minister Sushma Sawraj’s untimely demise, India has lost another veteran leader. Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley passed away on Saturday, due to prolonged ailment at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.
Arun Jaitely, 66, was brought to the hospital after he complained of palpitations and restlessness. He was kept under observation at the Cardio-Neuro-Centre of the hospital, however, his condition deteriorated by the evening.
A lawyer by profession, Arun Jaitely was the most important leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet during his first tenure and often acted as the chief trouble-shooter for the government.
During the first five years of the Modi government, Arun Jaitley donned several hats. He held the portfolios of Finance Ministry, Corporate Affairs Ministry, Defence Ministry, and Minister of Information and Broadcasting at various times, sometimes, multiple portfolios simultaneously. At one point, Arun Jaitley was India’s Defence, Finance and Corporate Affairs minister.
Arun Jaitley, despite keeping ill, was indispensable to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to an earlier report in India Today, Arun Jaitley had an “unsurpassable network of contacts across the political, legal and social spectrum”. PM Modi needed him to smooth the passage of bills in the Rajya Sabha. He was the go-to guy to keep the NDA running smoothly. He was Modi’s “eyes and ears”.
Opulent political career
Arun Jaitely had also been a trusted cabinet minister in Vajpayee government. Between 1999-2004, he was Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting and Law and Justice.
An alumna of Delhi’s St Xavier’s School and SRCC college, Arun Jaitely started early in politics. He was an ABVP student leader at the Delhi University campus in the seventies and rose to be the President of the Students Union of Delhi University in 1974. He spent 19 months in jail during the Emergency. Jaitley led the anti-corruption campaign for Raj Narain and Jay Prakash Narain. In the early eighties, he moved from ABVP to BJP, where he was appointed as the leader of the youth wing.
Arun Jaitley first assumed Cabinet office during the first term of Vajpayee government. He held several portfolios during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s second stint as the prime minister.
A Rajya Sabha MP between 2000 and 2018 from Gujarat, Arun Jaitley led the opposition in the Upper House during UPA-II. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who passed away earlier this week, was Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha during the same duration.
Arun Jaitely was elected a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh in 2019.
Failing health and retirement
Arun Jaitley’s health had kept him out of office during most of the first term of Modi government. Even as he held several key portfolios in the first Modi cabinet, he had to travel a lot for his health issues.
The veteran BJP leader had undergone renal transplant on May 14 last year. Arun Jaitley, who had stopped attending office since early April 2018, was back in the finance ministry on August 23, 2018.
Earlier in September 2014, he underwent bariatric surgery to correct the weight he had gained because of a long-standing diabetic condition.
Arun Jaitley did not contest the Lok Sabha elections of 2019 presumably because of his ill health.
Writing a letter to the prime minister, Arun Jaitley had cited health reasons for his decision. Jaitley said staying away from any responsibility will help him concentrate on his treatment and health.
In the letter, Jaitley said it had been an “honour” and a “learning experience” to be part of the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government.
Jaitley said in the last year-and-a-half, he’s had some “serious health challenges”. “My doctors have enabled me to emerge out of most of them,” Jaitley said, before placing his request that he not be given “any responsibility” in the Narendra Modi government’s second term.
From SC to UNGA: Legal life
Arun Jaitley was a senior Supreme Court advocate. He served as Additional Solicitor General between 1989 and 1990. During the time, he did the paperwork for the investigations into the Bofors scandal. His clients cover the political spectrum from Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal to Madhavrao Scindia of the Congress to LK Advani of the BJP.
Arun Jaitley was a delegate on behalf of the Government of India to the United Nations General Assembly Session in June 1998 where the Declaration on Laws Relating to Drugs and Money Laundering was approved.
Arun Jaitley is survived by his wife Sangeeta and two children Rohan and Sonali, both practice as lawyers. Arun Jaitley’s father-in-law, Girdhari Lal Dogra, was a lawyer and a prominent Jammu and Kashmir legislator, who served as the erstwhile state’s finance minister for 26 years. Arun Jaitley’s father Maharaj Kishen Jaitley was also a lawyer.