Manama: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday paid an emotional tribute to Arun Jaitley, saying he cannot imagine that he was far away from India in Bahrain while his “dear friend” and party colleague passed away in New Delhi.
Jaitley died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on Saturday afternoon after battling multiple health issues for the last several months. He was 66. He was admitted there on 9 August.
“My friend Arun Jaitley loved India, loved his party and loved being among people. It is upsetting and unbelievable that a person I have known since our youth is no longer in our midst,” Prime Minister Modi said in a tweet.
“I cannot imagine that I am here in Bahrain while my dear friend Arun Jaitley is no more,” Modi said while addressing a huge gathering of 15,000 members from the Indian community at the Bahrain National Stadium.
Modi on Saturday described Jaitley as a “valued friend” whose insights and nuanced understanding of matters had “very few parallels” as he condoled the death of the senior BJP leader who was one of his close confidants for decades.
Modi, who became the first Indian Prime Minister to Bahrain, said the former finance minister was full of life, blessed with wit, a great sense of humour and charisma.
The prime minister, who was accorded a warm welcome by the Indian community, said he was bound by his duty on one side, while on the other side his heart was full of emotions.
“At a time at a time when people are celebrating Janmashtami, I am mourning the death of my friend Arun,” Modi said, amid silence in the audience.
Modi said a few days ago he lost his sister and former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and now his “close friend” went away.
“Some days ago, we lost our former External Affairs Minister Behen Sushma Ji. Today my dear friend Arun went away,” Modi said.
The prime minister spoke to the wife and son of Jaitley on Saturday and expressed his condolences. Both of them insisted that he does not cancel his foreign tour.
Earlier in his tweets, Modi said Jaitley was admired by people across all sections of society, adding that he was multi-faceted, had impeccable knowledge about India’s Constitution, history, public policy, governance and administration.
“With the demise of Arun Jaitley Ji, I have lost a valued friend, whom I have had the honour of knowing for decades. His insight on issues and nuanced understanding of matters had very few parallels. He lived well, leaving us all with innumerable happy memories. We will miss him!” he said.
Modi also recalled Jaitley’s contribution to the BJP.
“BJP and Arun Jaitley Ji had an unbreakable bond. As a fiery student leader, he was at forefront of protecting our democracy during the Emergency. He became a much liked face of our Party, who could articulate the Party programmes and ideology to a wide spectrum of society,” he said.
The prime minister is on the third leg of his three-nation tour to France, the UAE and Bahrain.
Modi arrived here after wrapping up his visit to the UAE where he held talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and discussed measures to improve trade and cultural ties between the two countries.
From Bahrain, Modi is scheduled to return to France on Sunday to attend the G7 Summit meeting.