Veteran BJP leader and former Finance Minister Arun Jaitely died on 24 August 2019 in New Delhi. He was 66. Arun Jaitely had been suffering from various ailments for the past few years. He was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) New Delhi on August 9. In a statement, AIIMS said he was being treated by a multidisciplinary team of senior doctors.
President Ram Nath Kovind said he is extremely saddened by the demise of Arun Jaitley, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him a political giant. Condolence messages from leaders of political parties across the spectrum and people from different walks of life have poured in for Arun Jaitley.
Arun Jaitley had previously held the cabinet portfolios of Finance, Defence, Corporate Affairs, Commerce and Industry, and Law and Justice in the Vajpayee government and Narendra Modi government. From 2009 to 2014, he served as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He was a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India. He oversaw the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax which brought the country under one GST regime, demonetization, merger of Railway budget with general budget and introduction of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. Jaitley decided not to join the Modi Cabinet in 2019, due to health issues.
Jaitley had been a member of the national executive of Bharatiya Janata Party since 1991. He became the spokesperson of the BJP during the period preceding the 1999 general election. In 1999, after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government led National Democratic Alliance came to power, he was appointed Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting (Independent Charge). In addition he was appointed Minister of State for Disinvestment (Independent Charge). The disinvestment ministry was created for the first time in accordance with the policy of disinvestment under the World Trade Organization regime. On 23 July 2000 following the resignation of Ram Jethmalani as the Union Cabinet Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, he took over his ministry as an additional charge.
He was chosen as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha on 3 June 2009 by L.K. Advani. On 16 June 2009, he resigned from the post of General Secretary of BJP. He was also a member of the Central Election Committee of the party. As the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, he participated in the debates on the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha and also supported Anna Hazare in his 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill. He successfully introduced the eighty-fourth amendment to the Constitution of India in 2002 freezing parliamentary seats until 2026 and the 91th amendment to the Constitution of India in 2004 penalising defections. However, being in the party since 1980 he never contested any direct election until 2014. He was the BJP candidate for the Amritsar seat in the Lok Sabha (replacing Navjot Singh Sidhu) for the 2014 general election, but lost to the Indian National Congress candidate Amarinder Singh. He was nominated as a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat. He was re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in March 2018.
On 26 May 2014, Jaitley was selected by newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the Minister of Finance, the Minister for Corporate Affairs and the Minister of Defence, in his cabinet. Analysts blockquoted Jaitley’s “part-time” focus on defence as a simple continuation of the policies of the previous government. According to a WikiLeaks cable by Robert Blake, the Charge at the US Embassy, to his government, when pressed on the question of Hindutva, Jaitley had argued that Hindu nationalism “will always be a talking point” for the BJP and characterised this as an opportunistic issue. Jaitley later clarified that “the use of the word opportunistic in reference to nationalism or Hindu nationalism is neither my view nor my language. It could be the diplomat’s own usage.”
During his tenure as the Finance Minister of India, the government demonetized the r500 and r1000 currency notes, with the stated intention of curbing corruption, black money, fake currency, and terrorism from 9 November 2016. He oversaw the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which brought the country under one GST regime. On 20 June 2017, he reaffirmed that the roll-out of GST overseen by him as the finance minister was on track.
Out Leadership recommended Arun Jaitley as one of the experts and leaders who openly speak on LGBT+ issues.
On 29 May 2019, in a letter to Prime Minister Modi, Arun Jaitley blockquoted his health as a reason for not taking an active role in the formation of the new government, effectively declining a role as a minister in the second term of Prime Minister Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Bahrain when the former Union minister passed away, had recalled his association with Jaitley. Arun Jaitley’s family had reportedly requested Prime Minister Modi to continue his visit to France, UAE, and Bahrain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier paid an emotional tribute to Arun Jaitley, saying he cannot imagine that he was far away from India in Bahrain while his “dear friend” and party colleague passed away in New Delhi.
“My friend Arun Jaitley loved India, loved his party and loved being among people. It is upsetting and unbelievable that a person I have known since our youth is no longer in our midst,” Prime Minister Modi said in a tweet.