Arun Jaitley funeral blurs party lines
Former finance minister Arun Jaitley was cremated with full state honours on Sunday in the presence of a large number of leaders cutting across political lines.
The 66-year-old senior BJP leader had passed away on Saturday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The notable absentee at the funeral was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Sunday arrived in France for the G7 Summit after his visit to Bahrain and is scheduled to return to India on Monday.
Jaitley’s family had urged Modi not to cut short crucial foreign trips.
“I am a man bound by duty,” Modi had said on Saturday, speaking at an event in Bahrain to highlight the call of duty despite the loss of his “friend” Arun Jaitley.
“I can’t imagine that I am so far here while my friend has gone away,” Modi had added, turning emotional.
The Prime Minister will visit Jaitley’s home and attend a memorial meeting after he returns.
Modi’s monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat was also aired on Sunday.
Most Union ministers, including some chief ministers and Congress leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kapil Sibal, attended the funeral at Nigam Bodh Ghat in the capital.
BJP chief and home minister Amit Shah and a large number of party workers and admirers thronged the ghat on the banks of the Yamuna as Jaitley’s son Rohan lit the funeral pyre.
“Paid last respects to Arun Jaitley ji at Nigambodh Ghat, New Delhi. Arun ji’s absence will be truly missed,” Shah tweeted, attaching pictures.
Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who too described Jaitley as his friend, turned emotional as he stood with folded hands for a couple of minutes before the body of his former colleague in the government.
Earlier, Jaitley’s body had been kept at the BJP headquarters where a steady stream of leaders and workers turned up to pay their last respects to the leader, who was seen as the party’s chief trouble-shooter and a key strategist despite his failure to win even a single direct election. Jaitley had always been a Rajya Sabha member.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi did not attend the funeral but, like his mother Sonia Gandhi, he too wrote a letter to Jaitley’s wife Sangeeta. “In an illustrious career spanning over four decades, he (Arun Jaitley) left his mark on politics,” Rahul said in the letter.
He wished Sangeeta “peace and strength during this difficult time”.
Rahul had accompanied Sonia and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Jaitley’s residence on Saturday to pay his respects.