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Arun Jaitley: Urbane, suave, chief troubleshooter of BJP

Arun Jaitley died on Saturday at the AIIMS, New Delhi aged 66 years due to prolonged illness.

Arun Jaitley: Urbane, suave, chief troubleshooter of BJP

NEW DELHI: Arun Jaitley donned many hats. A senior Supreme Court lawyer par excellence, a senior leader and key strategist of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and who held several important portfolios including finance, defence, commerce and industry, corporate affairs, and law and justice in the governments of prime minister Narendra Modi and the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Arun Jaitley died on Saturday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi aged 66 years due to prolonged illness. The BJP leader had been under treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of AIIMS since August 9.

He had been facing several health issues for a long time including diabetes and his health worsened after he underwent a kidney transplant. Jaitley, who had held the finance portfolio during the first term of the Modi government, decided not to be a part of the new Union cabinet as he was unwell and needed time for his medical treatment.

Born on December 28, 1952, in New Delhi, Jaitley is survived by his wife Sangeeta Jaitley, daughter Sonali Jaitley Bakhshi and son Rohan Jaitley. Arun Jaitley and Sangeeta got married in 1982.

An alumnus of St. Xavier's School, Delhi, Shri Ram College of Commerce (BCom) and Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, Jaitley was active in students politics as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He was in 1974 elected as the president of Delhi University Students Union.

He was one of the most prominent youth leaders during Emergency (1975-77), and was under preventive custody for almost 29 months. He also actively participated in the anti-corruption movement launched by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s.

After his releasing following the lifting of Emergency, Jaitley joined the Jan Sangh. He joined the BJP after it was formed in 1980 and was made the president of its youth wing and the secretary of the Delhi unit.

Jaitley's legal career too saw several high points. He was an important cog in the alleged Bofors scandal which led to the political downfall of late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Jaitley was appointed Additional Solicitor General by late prime minister VP Singh in 1989. Despite being a staunch opponent of the Congress, Jaitley took up a case for its leader Madhavrao Scindia.

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Jaitley's urbane and articulate manner helped him win friends across party lines and industry. As finance minister, Jaitley steered through Parliament major economic legislations such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which had languished for nearly two decades. He also played a key role in getting through several other laws such as the Triple Talaq Bill to ban the Muslim instant divorce practice and also articulately defended the Rafale fighter jet deal.

A lawyer by profession, Jaitley had to stop practising law in June 2009 to follow his political duties as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He was the most important leader in Modi's Cabinet and has often acted as the chief troubleshooter for the government.

After the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under Vajpayee's prime ministership came to power in 1999, he was appointed the Minister of State (MoS) for Information and Broadcasting (Independent Charge). He was also appointed Minister of State for Disinvestment (Independent Charge), a new ministry created for the first time and took over the additional charge of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs on July 2000.

He was elevated to a Cabinet rank in November 2000 and was made simultaneously the Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs and Shipping. In 2003, he rejoined the Union Cabinet as the Minister of Commerce and Industry and Law and  Justice. With the defeat of the National Democratic Alliance in 2004, Jaitley returned to serving the BJP as a general secretary, and back to his legal career.

In 2009, he was chosen as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha by LK Advani. In his capacity, he played a vital role during the talks of the Women Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha and also supported Anna Hazare for the Jan Lokpal Bill.

In 2014, Jaitley was selected to be the Minister of Finance, the Minister for Corporate Affairs and the Minister of Defence, in his cabinet. He also served as a member to the Board of Governors of Asian Development Bank.