How ill is finance minister Arun Jaitley?

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been very ill for some time. And the political grapevine maintains that he has been advised to go abroad for medical treatment

Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

With Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar already abroad for medical treatment, there are now unconfirmed reports of a seriously ill Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley being advised to go abroad for treatment.

Jaitley, who underwent a bariatric surgery three years ago, took a long time to recover from it. Suffering from acute diabetes, he has not been keeping the best of health.

Speculation about his health had started in January this year when he failed to accompany Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the World Economic Forum at Davos. However, the official explanation was that he had dropped out at the last minute because of the Union Budget which he had to present barely a week after the scheduled return from Davos.

While the nature of his illness is not known, if true, the news could not have come at a worse moment for the NDA government. The Government has been battling a poor economy, farm unrest,rising prices, growing unemployment and a series of financial scams tumbling out of the closet.

The Government has also been hit by the growing unrest among the Dalits and the youth. While it has successfully stalled several no-confidence motions being taken up in Parliament for over the last several weeks, it also faces the prospect of not doing as well as it would have expected in the Karnataka election next month.

The Government has also not been able to come up with a cogent response to the PNB scam involving Nirav Modi. It has also faced criticism for its inept handling of corporate governance issues in private sector banks.

The Prime Minister would be doubly worried because there does not seem to be a ready replacement for Mr Jaitley to officiate as Finance Minister in his absence. While the name of Piyush Goyal was in circulation last year as a possible successor of Mr Jaitley in the finance ministry, the speculation stopped once he was shifted from independent charge of the Power sector to Railways.

Arun Jaitley is known to share a special relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They have known each other since the days when Jaitley was a member of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Delhi. Later when Modi was deputed to the BJP office in the national capital, they came to be close and sometimes Modi would even stay in Jaitley’s house.

When Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, it was Arun Jaitley who introduced him to the movers and shakers in the national capital. The Prime Minister in fact met editors and senior journalists in Delhi over dinner at the house of Mr Jaitley.

A trusted replacement for Mr Jaitley would be a hard task, especially with the general election barely a year away.

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Published: 03 Apr 2018, 3:18 PM