Indian ex-finance minister Arun Jaitley dies
NEW DELHI, Aug 24: Arun Jaitley, the former Indian finance minister and one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's closest associates, died in hospital on Saturday, nearly two weeks after he was admitted following breathing difficulties, officials said.
Jaitley, 66, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stepped down as finance minister in January due to ill health, just months before elections that returned Modi's Hindu nationalists to power.
Serving from 2014 until elections earlier this year, Jaitley oversaw the sudden withdrawal of vast amounts of cash from circulation in 2016.
Modi said the controversial policy, known as "demonetisation", would bring the black economy out of the shadows but it caused huge disruption and eventually almost all notes were returned to the banking system.
"With the demise of Arun Jaitley Ji, I have lost a valued friend, whom I have had the honor of knowing for decades," Modi said on Twitter. "His insight on issues and nuanced understanding of matters had very few parallels."
Jaitley was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on Aug. 9. A diabetic, his health had worsened after he underwent a kidney transplant in May last year. He also had to skip the presentation of the interim budget in February when he was in hospital in the United States for cancer treatment.
The lawyer-turned-politician also had triple heart bypass surgery when he was 52. Jaitley's urbane and articulate manner helped him win friends across party lines and industry. -REUTERS