The former Union Finance Minister was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) earlier this month, complaining of ‘breathlessness and restlessness’. A statement issued by AIIMS affirmed that the former Union Minister passed away at 12.07 p.m. IST on Saturday. His cremation with full state honours at the Nigambodh Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi followed the next day. Attendees from across the political spectrum were present to pay their respects.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unable to attend Jaitley’s funeral due to international visits, including the G7 Summit in France. He visited Jaitley’s family following his return to India, tweeting “destiny took Arun Ji away from us too soon but the good work he has done for India will remain immortal.” He had earlier said “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!”In a lengthy political and legal career, Jaitley occupied numerous political offices including both Union Finance Minister and (briefly) Union Defence Minister during the first Modi ministry. He previously occupied numerous ministerial portfolios during the government of Atal Bhiari Vajapayee between 1999 and 2003. A leading figure within the BJP, he occupied senior posts including general secretary and national spokesperson and was appointed Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha between 2009 and 2014.
His stewardship of the Union Finance Ministry under Modi was largely defined by two of the Centre’s most ambitious and dramatic fiscal policies: demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). During his tenure, he also presided over Union Budgets which were criticised by some for not effecting necessary rises in the government’s spending on health. Jaitley did not return to the Union Cabinet following the 2019 Lok Sabha elections which re-elected the Modi government, citing ill health. He was succeeded as Finance Minister by Nirmala Sitharaman.
Jaitley experienced numerous health issues during his lifetime, including hypertension and diabetes. He was treated for hypertension with a coronary artery bypass surgery in 2005 and, in 2014, underwent a gastric bypass operation to lose weight he had gained, which was attributed to his diabetes (a condition which affects almost one in ten Indians). Last year, he underwent a kidney transplant at AIIMS and was treated in the United States earlier this year for sarcoma, which later spread to his lungs.
The late Minister is one of a number of BJP politicians who have passed away in the previous year, including former Prime Minister Vajapayee, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. This leaves what The Economic Times calls “a void in the party that may be difficult to fill for a long time to come” and, indeed, a storied legacy with a marked imprint on Indian politics and society.
The renaming to Arun Jaitley Stadium will take place on September 12th.