NEW DELHI: Former Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, a key member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first-term cabinet, died in a New Delhi hospital on Saturday after a prolonged illness. He was 66.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences announced Jaitley’s death in a statement, but did not give any details. He was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago after he complained of breathlessness and restlessness.

Jaitley held the finance portfolio in Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government from 2014 through this year but chose not to run for reelection because of poor health.

Jaitley was diabetic and had bariatric weight-loss surgery in 2014, received a kidney transplant in 2018 and travelled to the United States last January for unspecified medical care. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Modi said on Twitter that Jaitley “was a political giant, towering intellectual and legal luminary. He was an articulate leader who made a lasting contribution to India.” Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said he was extremely saddened by the news.

“A brilliant lawyer, a seasoned parliamentarian, and a distinguished minister, he contributed immensely to nation building,” he tweeted.

A lawyer who first got involved in politics as a student leader at Delhi University in the 1970s, Jaitley also served as a minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party government led by then-Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee from 1999 to 2003.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019