Senior BJP leader and former Union minister Arun Jaitley was cremated at the Nigambodh Ghat in New Delhi with full state honours as the sky opened up on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. Leaders from across the political spectrum, admirers and party workers thronged the cremation ground to bid adieu to a leader who enjoyed goodwill across the divide.
Earlier in the day, Jaitley’s body was taken to the BJP headquarters, where party workers, Union ministers like Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh and other leaders curring across party lines queued up in large numbers to pay their last respects to the leader.
From the party headquarters, the remains of former student leader were carried in a flower-decked gun carriage to the cremation ground as slogans of ‘Jaitley ji amar rahein’ (long live Jaitley) reverberated in the air.
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, BJP veteran LK Advani, 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.
Jaitley, 66, passed away at the Delhi AIIMS on Saturday. He was undergoing treatment at the hospital, where he was admitted on August 9.
On Saturday, the Jaitley’s mortal remains were kept at his residence where President Ram Nath Kovind, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and several other politicians cutting across party lines offered floral tributes.
A politician at heart, Jaitley had decided to stay away from the political corridors after being diagnosed with kidney ailments. Citing health reasons, he did not contest the Lok Sabha elections this year. After the Modi government returned to power for a second term, Jaitley had written to the Prime Minister saying he would like to stay away from “any responsibility” on account of his ill health.
Jaitley, during his stint in the Finance Ministry, was instrumental in implementing the Goods and Service Tax (GST) reform aimed at streamlining India’s indirect tax structure. It was also during his tenure when the controversial decision of demonetisation was taken.
Arun Jaitley is survived by his wife Sangeeta and two children Rohan and Sonali, both practice as lawyers.
Rahul Gandhi: His presence will be remembered
In a condolence message to Jaitley’s wife Sangeeta, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Sunday said that Jaitley’s voice will no longer reverberate within the hallowed portals of Parliament, but his presence will be remembered.
Rahul said in Jaitley’s illustrious career spanning four decades, he left a mark on politics. “Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. I wish you peace and strength during this difficult time,” Gandhi said to Jaitley’s wife.
BJP working president JP Nadda, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Yoga Guru Ramdev also paid their last tribute at the party HQ, saying the BJP would seek his strategy whenever there was an election in the state.
“He has been a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat. We have won several elections in the state by working on his strategy. We will always feel his absence,” Rupani was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday also 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,” Modi had said in a tweet.