Former Union Minister and BJP’s chief troubleshooter Arun Jaitley passed away on Saturday noon, after fighting kidney-related ailments for over two years. He was admitted to AIIMS hospital in New Delhi on August 9 after he complained of unease and was reportedly undergoing examination from 11 am. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Home Minister Amit Shah, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and many politicians, both from the BJP and various other parties, have visited AIIMS hospital in the past two weeks. It was announced last Saturday that Jaitley had been placed on life support.
Jaitley, who has been a major strategist for the BJP, had been unwell for several months and underwent surgeries in the United States as well. Last year, he underwent a successful kidney transplant at AIIMS. Earlier this year, he did not contest the Parliamentary elections held in April-May 2019 and had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking that he be excluded from the Cabinet.
Born in 1952 to Kishen Jaitley and Ratan Prabha Jaitley, Arun Jaitley did his schooling in St Xavier’s School in New Delhi. He graduated in Commerce from the prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce and then did a law degree from Delhi University. An ABVP activist during his university days, Jaitley was the president of the Delhi University Students’ Union and spent 19 months in jail during the Emergency. He joined the BJP in 1980. In 1990, he was appointed as the Additional Solicitor General of India and was entrusted with fighting the Bofors case for the government. In 1991, he was inducted into the BJP’s national executive, the top decision-making body of the party. He first became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 2000. He was made the BJP general secretary in 2002. Between 2009 and 2014, he served as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Jaitely was one of the most important ministers in the first Modi government between 2014 and 2019, often acting as the chief troubleshooter. Before serving as Finance Minister, he has served as the Minister of Defence (2014 & 2017) and the Minister of Information and Broadcasting (2014-2016). In the past, he has also served as the Minister for Law (2000) and Shipping (2001). When Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, he had given Jaitley the responsibility of handling Finance, Defence and Information & Broadcasting portfolios.
As the Law Minister in the Union Cabinet, he introduced the 91st amendment to the Constitution that penalised defections of politicians. He also brought in judicial reforms, like the Advocates Welfare Fund, implementing the scheme of setting up Fast Track as well as working on the computerisation of court. He also served on the Board of Governors of the Bengaluru-based India Law School.
During his tenure as Finance Minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet, Jaitley has been credited with several landmark reforms. While GST (2017) and demonetisation (2016) were the largest, he also introduced the bankruptcy code, the real estate bill, merged Union Budget and the Railway Budget and established the monetary policy committee.
He was the driving force behind Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) that has ensured that there is a framework in place for resolution of bankrupt companies in a time bound manner.
He also initiated consolidation of the banking sector. During his tenure as the FM, five associated banks of State Bank of India (SBI) were merged along with the Bharatiya Mahila Bank. Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank were also merged with Bank of Baroda.
Arun Jaitley was known for his oratory skills. As a minister, he led the charge several times for the government when it came to speaking to the media; as an opposition leader, too, he was at the forefront when it came to taking on the former UPA government. During the Lokpal debate, Jaitley famously criticised the UPA for not passing the ombudsman Bill with a play of words on former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous speech, Freedom at Midnight. “At the stroke of midnight, when the world slept, India awoke to a great fraud being played on its parliamentary democracy. It was freedom at midnight,” Jaitley said.
As a lawyer, Jaitley had practised in the Supreme Court and several High Courts since 1977. He was a delegate on behalf of the Indian government at the UN General Assembly session in June 1998, where the Declaration on Laws Relating to Drugs and Money Laundering was approved. He has also served as the Additional Solicitor General of India and during that time, he worked on the Bofors scandal as well.
He had undergone a renal transplant in AIIMS in May last year, and had also undergone bariatric surgery in September 2014 to correct the weight he had put on due to a long-standing diabetic condition.
He is survived by his wife Sangeeta Dogra, son Rohan and daughter Sonali.