New Delhi: Former Finance Minister and BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley, who died at the age of 66 after a prolonged illness on Saturday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), was cremated at the Nigambodh Ghat here with full State honours on Sunday. Leaders from across the political spectrum and scores of his admirers and party workers were present at the ground.
Jaitley's son Rohan performed the last rites.
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, BJP veteran L K Advani, party president and Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, party's working president J P Nadda, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani and Anurag Thakur; BJP MPs Vijay Goel and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe; Congress leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kapil Sibal were among those present at the cremation ground.
Chief ministers of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttarakhand, Devendra Fadnavis, Vijay Rupani, B S Yediyurappa, Nitish Kumar and Trivendra Singh Rawat, respectively, were also there.
Earlier in the day, his body was taken to the BJP headquarters from where it was carried in a flower-decked gun carriage to the cremation ground, amidst slogans of 'Jaitley ji amar rahein' (long live Jaitley).
BJP workers and mourners queued up in large numbers outside the party headquarters since morning to pay their last respects to the leader. Posters remembering Jaitley were put up on the roads leading to the Nigambodh Ghat, on the banks of the Yamuna river.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Venkaiah Naidu, Amit Shah, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and several politicians cutting across party lines offered floral tributes to Jaitley at his residence in Kailash Colony, south Delhi, on Saturday.
Jaitley is survived by his wife Sangeeta, two children, Rohan and Sonali.
Jaitley, as finance minister, had ushered in India's biggest tax reforms and was the chief trouble-shooter of the BJP and the Modi government.
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.
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 on Saturday.
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.
BJP 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.
While Shah spent around three-and-a-half hours at Jaitley's residence, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan could be seen standing stoic at the gates welcoming mourners barefoot.
Leaders across the political spectrum, BJP workers and his admirers filed past the body, which was kept in a glass casket, and offered flowers and wreaths.
Venkaiah Naidu, who was on a trip to Chennai, drove straight from the airport to pay his respects to Jaitley at his residence.
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Harsh Vardhan, Jitendra Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad and S Jaishankar; veteran BJP leader L K Advani and party working president J P Nadda were among those who paid the last respects to Jaitley.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajeev Shukla; Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan also paid homage.
Arvind Kejriwal, Yogi Adityanath, Naveen Patnaik and Kamal Nath were among the several chief ministers who paid homage to Jaitley.