NEW DELHI :
Former finance minister Arun Jaitley has opted out of the government to be sworn in on Thursday, citing serious health challenges. Jaitley made the request in a letter to Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi a day before the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is sworn in for its second consecutive term.
Piyush Goyal, who presented the interim budget in February, stepping in for Jaitley, who was in the US for a surgery, could succeed the senior leader.
In the letter, released by him on his Twitter handle, Jaitley said he has been facing serious health challenges for the last 18 months, but offered to undertake informal work for the government or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“I am writing to you to formally request you that 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. I would obviously have a lot of time at my disposal to undertake any work informally to support the government or the party," he said.
Modi and other members of the council of ministers are set to take oath on Thursday in a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Jaitley said in the letter that he had conveyed his decision to Modi after the end of the campaign for the general elections when the PM was leaving for Kedarnath.
“I had orally informed you that even though I was able to discharge my responsibilities assigned to me during the campaign, I would in future, for some time, like to keep away from any responsibility. This will enable me to concentrate on my treatment and health. The BJP and NDA, under your leadership, have secured a spectacular win."
The former finance minister said it was a great honour and a learning experience to have been part of the government headed by Modi. “Even earlier, the party had blessed me with responsibilities in the first NDA government, in the party organization, and also while we were in the opposition. I could not have asked for more," Jaitley said.
Jaitley’s absence could trigger a generational shift in the government. With senior leaders like M. Venkaiah Naidu, the vice-president, and Kalraj Mishra no longer part of the government, Jaitley was among the senior most leaders of the party.
Jaitley is the second most senior member of the cabinet to opt out. Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told the party before the Lok Sabha polls that she no longer wanted to contest elections. She could, however, be given a place in the Rajya Sabha.
In the last five years, the BJP has taken deliberate steps toward bringing about a generational shift in the party, which is likely to be reflected in the new council of ministers.
Apart from former home minister Rajnath Singh and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari, most Union ministers in the previous government were part of the new generation of leaders. “A generational shift is a necessity for all political parties and, if a political party does not recognize this fact, then it stops growing. Just because senior leaders are not part of the government or do not get election tickets, it does not mean that they cannot work for the growth of the party," said a senior BJP member of Parliament.
The generational shift was also visible when veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were denied tickets or opted out. Similarly, former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also decided not to contest this time.