President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and several politicians cutting across party lines offered floral tributes to former Union finance minister Arun Jaitley at his residence in south Delhi on Saturday.
Jaitley, 66, passed away at the AIIMS here after prolonged illness and is survived by his wife and children. The BJP stalwart’s body was later brought to his residence at Kailash Colony.
While Shah spent around three-and-a-half hours at Jaitley’s residence, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan could be seen standing stoic at the gates welcoming mourners barefoot.
Leaders across the political spectrum, Bharatiya Janata Party workers and his admirers filed past the body, which was kept in a glass casket, and offered flowers and wreaths.
Naidu, who was on a trip to Chennai, drove straight from the airport to pay his respects to Jaitley at his residence.
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Harsh Vardhan, Jitendra Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad and S Jaishankar; veteran BJP leader L K Advani and party working president J P Nadda were among those who paid the last respects to Jaitley.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajeev Shukla; Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan also paid homage.
Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi hugged Jaitley’s wife, Sangeeta, in a tight embrace as the two met.
Arvind Kejriwal, Yogi Adityanath, Naveen Patnaik and Kamal Nath were among the several chief ministers who paid homage to Jaitley.
“The pain of losing Arun Jaitley is unbearable for the entire country and the BJP workers,” Shah said. “Since the 1970s, Shri Arun Jaitley has worked in the political field of this country.”
“During Emergency, he was in jail for 19 months as a student leader. And then as a brilliant advocate and in the Supreme Court, he dealt with a lot of public issues through law and raised his voice in many corruption cases,” the BJP chief said. “He has had a huge contribution. Even as an MP, he has played the role of the voice of the people and a crusader against corruption,” the Union Home Minister added.
Rajnath Singh said Jaitley was an asset to the party and the country. “He was renowned even on the international stage. This country can never forget his contribution while he was a minister,” the Defence Minister said.
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s foster daughter, Namita Kaul, also laid a wreath on Jaitley’s body. Late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s daughter, Bansuri Swaraj, also visited Jaitley’s residence.
Ahmed Patel said even though Jaitley was in a different party that had a different ideology, he was cordial with everyone. “There are very few people like him. Not only is his death a loss to the BJP, but also to the nation,” the Congress leader said.
“Jaitley was one of the finest politicians in the country. He was a great human being and an excellent orator,” Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal said. “I shared very good relations with him. Nothing will be able to make up for this loss. Delhi will miss him,” the Aam Aadmi Party chief said.
Odisha Chief Minister Patnaik recalled Jaitley as an “excellent parliamentarian, (and) a fine minister” who will be missed by many.
Adityanath described Jaitley as a “sensitive” person, great orator and an astute politician who handled defence, law ministries and several portfolios with great ability. “It is an irreparable loss for the country and the party,” the Uttar Pradesh chief minister said.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were also present at the former finance minister’s residence.
A number of Delhi BJP leaders, party MPs Gautam Gambhir, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Meenakshi Lekhi, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma paid tributes to Jaitley.
Senior Congress leader Azad, who had gone to Srinagar earlier in the day, drove to Jaitley’s house straight from the airport along with other leaders.
The leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said Jaitley would be sorely missed in the Parliament. Azad said his relationship with Jaitley was two types – one was political, while the other was as the son-in-law of senior Congress leader Girdhari Lal Dogra. “Till the end, we maintained these two relationships. In the last five-six years, a third relationship developed when he was the leader of the House in Rajya Sabha and I was the leader of Opposition,” Azad said. “Not only was he a brilliant lawyer, but also a great parliamentarian,” Azad said.