Arun Jaitley bails out of new Modi cabinet citing ill health

Arun Jaitley, who was finance minister in the NDA government and one of the close aides of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today said he may not be given any ministerial position in the new government as his health problems do not allow him to take up a job.

While sharing details about the recapitalisation of public sector banks at a news conference in New Delhi on Friday, Jaitley presented to the media a letter he had written to Modi detailing the serious health challenges he had faced in the last 18 months and that he needed to recuperate.
“I should be allowed a reasonable time for myself, my treatment and my health, and, therefore not be a part of any responsibility, for the present, in the new government,” Jaitley said in the letter.
Jaitley, a 66-year-old lawyer-turned politician, was also the cabinet’s main communicator with the media, one of the ruling party’s most articulate voices in parliament, and was a strong campaigner in the recent election despite his poor health.
A diabetic, Jaitley’s health issues became worse after he had a kidney transplant in May last year. He skipped presenting an interim budget in February as he was in hospital in the United States receiving cancer treatment.
Finance ministry officials said Jaitley had been largely working from home for the past three weeks while undergoing treatment.
Finding a replacement for Jaitley would be a difficult job for the BJP leadership as there are only a few in the BJP with appropriate experience to handle the finance portfolio.
And, in a challenging new term, amidst a slowing of economy and the need to create enough jobs for the millions of youth entering the labour market every year, the new finance minister faces the uphill task.
Modi, who will take the oath of prime minister on Thursday for his second term, could assign railways and coal minister Piyush Goyal or bring in someone from outside the party to fill the post.
Goyal, 54, presented the interim budget for Jaitley in February and has filled in for him before. The new government is expected to present a full budget once it takes office.