Arun Jaitley: Former India finance minister dies
Former Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley died after a long illness. He was admitted to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital on 9 August with breathing issues.
Mr Jaitley, 66, was a close friend of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a senior member of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
As finance minister during the BJP’s first term, he was credited with a landmark goods and services tax bill – India’s most significant tax reform since independence.
However, citing poor health, Mr Jaitley opted out of the BJP’s second cabinet after its massive election victory earlier this year. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2018.
It was also under his watch as finance minister that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an overnight decision to withdraw 500 rupee ($7.60) and 1,000 rupee banknotes from the financial system as part of a crackdown on corruption and illegal cash holdings.
The move sent shock waves through the Indian economy, which relied heavily on cash transactions.
Mr Jaitley was also responsible for pushing through the Goods and Services Tax or GST, which absorbed a messy flood of indirect taxes, duties and surcharges into a single tax.
A lawyer by profession, Mr Jaitley was active in campus politics in the late 1970s and became the president of the student union at the prestigious Delhi University.
He was among many activists who were detained when then-prime minister Indira Gandhi suspended civil rights and invoked a state of emergency that lasted between 1975 and 1977.
He was appointed as the country’s additional solicitor general in 1989 and formally joined the Hindu nationalist BJP in 1991. In 2002, he was appointed as the party’s general secretary and one of its official spokesmen.
Mr Jaitley was renowned for having friends across the political spectrum. Therefore he would often be called upon to play the role of a mediator or act as a consensus builder when the BJP needed the support of other parties.