NEW DELHI -- Arun Jaitley, former Indian finance minister and veteran leader of the country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, died on Aug. 24 after battling serious health issues. He was 66.
Jaitley has suffered major health problems for more than a year and underwent a kidney transplant in May 2018. The former finance minister was admitted to a hospital in New Delhi on Aug. 9 after complaining of breathlessness and was being attended by a multidisciplinary team of doctors.
Jaitley, a close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, declined to serve in any position in the BJP government's second consecutive five-year term that started in May, owing to health challenges, including diabetes.
He did not contest the April-May general elections due to poor health and went to the U.S. earlier this year on medical leave, reportedly for cancer treatment. Piyush Goyal, his Cabinet colleague, temporarily handled the Finance Ministry in Jaitley's absence and presented the interim budget in February.
In Modi's first term as prime minister, Jaitley, a lawyer-turned politician, also held the portfolios of corporate affairs and defense. As finance minister, he led the county's landmark indirect tax reforms, resulting in introduction of a Goods and Services Tax in July 2017. He was also instrumental in establishing a modern bankruptcy code.
Born Dec. 28, 1952, Jaitley became president of the Delhi University Students Union in 1974. He was taken into preventive custody when a state of emergency was imposed in India in 1975 by the Indira Gandhi government, leading to suspension of civil liberties, and spent 19 months in detention. He joined the BJP in 1980 when the party was formed.
Despite his ill health, Jaitley was active on Twitter. On the Modi government scrapping the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir -- a territory over which India and neighboring Pakistan have a long-standing dispute -- earlier this month, he tweeted: "The J & K history of the past seven decades shows that the journey of this separate status has been towards separatism and not integration."
"It created a separatist psyche. Pakistan was more than enthusiastic in trying to exploit the situation."
The special status to the state conferred under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution allowed it to frame many of its own laws and prohibited people from other parts of India from buying property there.