At BJP head office, thousands mourn the loss of mentor
A large number of people, including politicians and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers, turned up at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday to pay their last respects to former Union minister Arun Jaitley, who passed away on Saturday.
Among the mourners was Rajni Kumar, 14, who was part of a group from a school that a charitable trust runs close to Jaitley’s residence. Kumar remembered meeting Jaitley in December 2017 at her school, which Jaitley visited on his birthday every year. “He was a warm person and the children themselves volunteered for the visit the BJP office to pay their homage,” said Vidya Sinha, one of the teachers accompanying the group.
Soon another group of teenagers from an orphanage in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj followed. The orphanage was also one of the places Jaitley visited on his birthday annually.
Sandeep Saini, 18, an undergraduate student at the University of Delhi, recalled an interaction with Jaitley in 2018. “I consider him a mentor. We had interacted with him twice at the orphanage and once he sent us books,” said Saini.
Anil Couto, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, said Jaitley called him up in 2015, following reports of vandalisation of churches and Christian institutes in Delhi.
“He called some of us and discussed the issue in detail. The objective was to allay the anxieties of the community. Next Christmas, he threw a big party at his residence,” said Couto, who was one of the visitors.
Hukum Singh Tyagi, 45, a BJP worker from Dholpur in Rajasthan, recalled attending an event in the state five years ago at which Jaitley was the chief speaker. “It was a speech on why party workers should always ensure good behaviour at home and outside,” said Tyagi, who was part of a 15-member group that rushed to Delhi on Sunday after hearing the news of Jaitley’s death.
Saji Thomas, a 27-year-old BJP worker from Kerala’s Ernakulam, was part of a separate seven-member group that had taken an early flight from the south Indian state on Sunday to pay their respects. “I have met him once, around three years ago, in Delhi. We would remember him as an inclusive leader,” said Thomas.
Earlier, BJP chief and Union home minister Amit Shah reached the headquarters around 10.30, minutes before Jaitley’s body was brought in an army carriage from his house in New Delhi’s Kailash Colony.
Wrapped in the Tricolour, Jaitley’s body reached the party office around 11 am and was taken to its main conference hall.
Jaitley’s family members paid their last respects to him while Shah was beside them. Shah and defence minister Rajnath Singh were first among BJP leaders to pay floral respects to the BJP leader. Gates of the conference hall were then opened for public and other workers. One by one, thousand of them went inside the hall to pay their respects in presence of Jaitley’s wife Sangeeta Jaitley, son Rohan Jaitley, Shah, and other BJP leaders.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Dayanidhi Maran, former Union minister Sharad Yadav, Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh, and Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam were among the politicians from other parties to visit the party office. “It is a personal loss to me,” Paneerselvam said. “He was also there to help Tamil Nadu whenever there was a need.”
Manipur governor Najma Heptulla, Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Mallik, Union ministers Prakash Javadekar, Anurag Thakur, Piyush Goyal, and Ravi Shankar Prasad were also present at the party headquarters.
“Jaitley was an elder brother, guide and a family to me,” Goyal said.