PM Modi meets Jaitley after he opts out of Cabinet citing poor health

Topics Arun Jaitley

Since last week, there has been intense speculation about Jaitley's health
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Arun Jaitley at the latter’s residence on Wednesday evening, hours after the outgoing finance minister requested that he should not be given any responsibility for now and be allowed time off due to his ill health.

Though there was no official announcement on the outcome of the meeting, which lasted about 20 minutes, Modi is learnt to have requested Jaitley to reconsider his decision. It is not known if Jaitley agreed to stay on in the government. However, the buzz in political circles is that Jaitley could hold the post of a Cabinet minister without portfolio. If that happens, the country will have a new finance minister, and the names of Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman are doing the rounds. The new council of ministers will be sworn in on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Jaitley tweeted a letter he had written to Modi, ending days of fervent speculation regarding his health. “I am writing to you formally to 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,” he said. 

“During the last eighteen months, I have had some serious health challenges… After the campaign had concluded and you were leaving for Kedarnath, I had orally informed you that even though I was able to discharge the responsibilities assigned to me during the campaign, I would in future, like to keep away from any responsibility,” he wrote to the PM .

Jaitley said while doctors had enabled him to come out of most of his health concerns, he would need time to recover. 

Sources: MoSPI, RBI, Controller General of Accounts
Since becoming finance minister in 2014, Jaitley has undergone a bariatric surgery, a kidney transplant and a surgery in the United States to remove soft tissue cancer in his left leg. Currently, he is said to be undergoing chemotherapy. 

Since last week, there has been intense speculation about Jaitley's health. There were news reports that he had been admitted to the AIIMS New Delhi, for a day. However, on May 24, a day after election results, Jaitley met the five secretaries of the finance ministry and senior officials at his residence. On Sunday, Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das also visited him. The next finance minister will be facing a tough challenge to push up economic growth amid resource crunch. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth is officially projected to come down to 7 per cent in 2018-19, the lowest in the first tenure of the Modi government. While there are demands of a stimulus package to perk up subdued private investments and sagging demand, the government does not have money to give it. The Centre's fiscal deficit overshot the target fixed for 2018-19 by 34 per cent till February 2019.

However, Jaitley leaves behind much benign inflation. The CPI inflation rate was less than 3 per cent in March 2019 against over 8 per cent in the same month five years ago. Similarly, the retail food and beverages inflation rate was 8.61 per cent five years ago, which was down to 0.66 per cent in March 2019.

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