New Delhi: Arun Jaitley, 66, 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.
In a brief statement, the hospital said Jaitley breathed his last at 12.07pm. He was admitted to the hospital on August 9 following complaint of breathing difficulty.
It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Arun Jaitley, the AIIMS said in the statement.
The cremation will be on Sunday afternoon at the Nigambodh Ghat.
Leaders across the political spectrum paid rich tributes to Jaitley, a quintessential moderate who was never associated with the hard edges of Hindutva politics.
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.
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!," Modi tweeted.
"We are deeply saddened to hear the passing of Shri Arun Jaitley. Our condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in this time of grief," the Indian National Congress (INC) said on Twitter while expressing their condolence.
Jaitley's body was taken to his Kailash Colony residence after formalities were completed at the AIIMS.
On Sunday morning, his body will be taken to the BJP headquarters where leaders across the political spectrum are expected to pay their last respects. From BJP headquarters, it will be taken to the Nigambodh Ghat for the last rites.
A lawyer by profession, Arun Jaitley had played a key role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet after the BJP stormed to power in 2014.
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. He often acted as the chief troubleshooter of the government.
Jaitley was born on December 28, 1952 to Maharaj Kishen Jaitley and Ratan Prabha Jaitley in Delhi.
He completed his schooling at St. Xavier’s School, New Delhi from 1960-69 and graduated in Commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi in 1973. He also studied law at the Delhi University.
Jaitley who was an ABVP activist during his student years, became the President of the Delhi University Students’ Union in 1974.
He was a lawyer at the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court and was appointed Additional Solicitor General under the V P Singh government in 1989.
He discontinued his practice only in 2009 when he was appointed the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
He was also the Minister of State for Disinvestment (Independent Charge), Minister of Law and Justice, Minister of Commerce & Industry, and Minister of Company Affairs and Shipping in the Vajpayee government.
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.
Jaitley did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election because of his ill-health. He had undergone a renal transplant on May 14 last year at AIIMS.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal was given the charge of the finance ministry at that time.
Jaitley, who had stopped attending office since early April last year, was back in the finance ministry on August 23, 2018.
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.
Jaitley, an urbane and media-savvy leader and a legal luminary, was one of the sharpest political minds not only within the BJP but also in the larger political spectrum where he made lifelong allies cutting across the ideological divide.
Arun Jaitley is survived by his wife Sangeeta, two children, Rohan and Sonali.