- Leaders across parties paid their last respects to Arun Jaitley
- The former finance minister died at Delhi's AIIMS on Saturday afternoon
- President, Amit Shah, Sonia Gandhi among those who paid last respects
Arun Jaitley, former Finance Minister and BJP veteran who died on Saturday, was cremated with state honours in Delhi on Sunday. Cutting across party lines, a number of political leaders paid their respects to him and attended the funeral. The 66-year-old died shortly after noon on Saturday at Delhi's premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where he had been admitted for two weeks.
Most union ministers, with whom Mr Jaitley had served in the first term of PM Modi's government, attended the funeral. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, Congress's Jyotiraditya Scindia and Mr Jaitley's one-time opponent in court-room, Kapil Sibal, were also present.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is abroad, missed the funeral. He offered to come back yesterday, but was dissuaded by Mr Jaitley's family in view of his engagements. PM Modi is attending the G7 summit in France today after his visit to Bahrain.
In the morning, mourners gathered at Mr Jaitley's south Delhi residence and later, at the party office, where Vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, home minister Amit Shah and Defence minister Rajnath Singh paid floral tributes before the casket wrapped in the national flag. Senior Congress leader Motilal Vohra, NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, RLD leader Ajit Singh and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu also paid respects to Mr Jaitley.
One of the most trusted ministers of PM Modi, Mr Jaitley was acknowledged as the ultimate backroom strategist and a key troubleshooter of the party. As a minister, he had steered major economic legislation, including the flagship Goods and Services Tax, and defended controversial government policies.
Ailing for several years, Mr Jaitley had requested PM Modi to be allowed time to recuperate before taking any fresh responsibility, when the BJP won a second term in power in May.
The lawyer-turned-politician had triple heart bypass surgery when he was 52. A diabetic, his health had worsened after he underwent a kidney transplant in May last year. In February, he had to skip the presentation of the interim budget as he was in the United States for treatment.
PM Modi - who visited Mr Jaitley at AIIMS before leaving the country - turned emotional after the news of Mr Jaitley's death. "I can't imagine that I am so far here while my friend has gone away. Some days ago, we lost our former External Affairs Minister behen Sushma ji. Today I have lost my friend Arun," he said.
Sushma Swaraj, one of the most popular ministers in the first term of PM Modi's government, died on August 6. She was the second high-profile loss to the BJP after Manohar Parikkar, the former defence minister, who died in March.
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