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Nation bids adieu to Arun Jaitley

KR Srivats New Delhi | Updated on August 25, 2019 Published on August 25, 2019

File photo of former Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley   -  PTI

Mortal remains of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley being taken to Nigam Bodh ghat for cremation, in New Delhi, on Sunday. Photo: Kamal Narang

Former Finance Minister cremated with state honours; leaders, BJP followers pay tributes

Former Finance Minister and BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley was cremated with full state honours on Sunday, a day after he breathed his last at AIIMS.

In his demise, a big political vacuum has been created in the ruling BJP ranks and the country has lost a key leader with strong reformist credentials, who understood the social needs of the society while being a champion of economic freedom, say economy watchers and political observers. Jaitley’s death comes close on the heels of the demise of another BJP heavyweight, Sushma Swaraj, earlier this month.

Read: Former Union Minister Arun Jaitley passes away at 66

Hundreds of party workers, admirers and mourners including the visibly emotional Vice-President, Venkaiah Naidu, and almost the entire BJP top brass besides leaders from across the political spectrum bid final farewell to the 66-year-old Jaitley, at the Nigambodh Ghat cremation ground on the banks of the Yamuna in the capital.

Last rites

His son, Rohan, performed the last rites (lighting the pyre in the traditional Hindu way) amid rain and in the presence of family members and the hundreds assembled. Several senior leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, laid wreaths on the mortal remains and a 21-gun salute was given before the last rites. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, once a staunch critic and political opponent of Jaitley, was also present to pay his respects to the departed leader.

Gun carriage

Earlier in the day, Jaitley’s body — wrapped in the national flag — was brought in a gun carriage around 11 am to the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg from his Kailash Colony residence to enable BJP workers and the public to pay their last respects.

Arun Jaitley: Life in Pictures

Around 1.30 pm, his body was taken to the Nigambodh Ghat for the last rites.

Except Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-nation foreign tour, almost the entire Union Cabinet was present to bid adieu to Jaitley, who had been a mentor to some.

Modi on Saturday paid an emotional tribute to Jaitley, ruing the fact that he was far away, in Bahrain, while his “dear friend” and party colleague breathed his last. “My friend Arun Jaitley loved India, loved his party and loved being among people,” Modi said.

A lawyer by profession

Delhi-born Jaitley, a lawyer by profession, was a key member of the Modi 1.0 Cabinet. He was seen as BJP’s go-to man and troubleshooter, given his abundant expertise on the Constitution and the legal system.

He had played a critical role in ushering in some significant economic legislation and tax reforms, including the Competition law, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

He was also the Finance Minister when the demonetisation move was announced on November 8, 2016.

Despite his illness, Jaitley remained engaged in the public sphere, writing blogs and giving advice to Finance Ministry officials who visited his home.

His last blog, written on on August 6, titled ‘PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah Achieve the Impossible’, spoke about Article 370 and Triple Talaq.

Such was Jaitley’s affability and gentle disposition that it is often joked in political circles that he had more friends in the Opposition than within his own party.

A patient listener to others’ viewpoints, Jaitley, however, would not easily cede ground from his position while gently persuading his opponent to agree to his views. There was no occasion when he got into a bitter argument with the opponent even while being a tough negotiator, recall his close friends.

A foodie and cricket lover

If Jaitley had a weakness that he openly admitted to, it was that he was a foodie. His love for cricket and the media darbars that he regularly held in Parliament House are legendary.

Also well known was his ability to build consensus among the States for decisions taken at the GST Council.

The top leaders and dignitaries who attended his cremation included the BJP’s working president JP Nadda, party veteran LK Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and Union Ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Harsh Vardhan and Prakash Javadekar.

The Chief Ministers who were present include Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, Maharashtra’s Devendra Fadnavis, Gujarat’s Vijay Rupani, Karnataka’s BS Yediyurappa and Uttarakhand’s Trivendra Singh Rawat.

The Opposition ranks was represented by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabhi Azad, Kapil Sibal and Jyotiraditya Scindia and the NCP leader Praful Patel, among others.

 

Lawyers remember Jaitley

Bar associations in Delhi condoled Jaitley’s demise, saying he was a “stalwart”, “helpful and a great human being” who always stood for the cause of lawyers, and that his death is a huge loss for the profession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published on August 25, 2019
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