Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday joined leaders from several political parties in paying glowing tributes to Arun Jaitley, saying the former Union minister's life "inspires us to work harder for the nation" and he feels the loss of his "very close friend" every moment.
Modi described the former finance minister, a multi-faceted personality who was a legal luminary and had keen interest in sports administration, as an "invaluable gem" in public life.
Turning emotional, Modi, who had decades long close relations with Jaitley (66), said it was his "misfortune" that he had to pay condolences to a very good old friend who was younger to him.
He was blessed with so much talent in so many fields and was useful to everyone, the prime minister said at a 'Shradhanjali Sabha' held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here, asserting that he added tremendous value to everything he did.
As a member of his Cabinet, the former finance minister would give valuable inputs because of his knowledge of parliamentary and government history, Modi said, adding that he will always miss his presence and called him an "encyclopedia".
The party would turn to either L K Advani, who was also in the audience, or Jaitley for drafting its important papers when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister, Modi said, underscoring his talent.
"We will all remember so many memories with Arun ji. His life inspires us to work harder for the nation," he said.
Noting that he suffered from health issues for long and was a diabetic since an early age, Modi said Jaitley would never speak about himself or his health but be curious about important issues and how to deal with them.
Modi lamented that he could not pay his last respects to Jaitley after he passed away on August 24. Modi was then away on a three-nation tour.
"I will always carry this burden in my heart," he said.
Modi noted that Jaitley and he would share a room during the party's conventions.
The late BJP leader could afford to stay in five-star hotels but chose to live with other party colleagues in accommodation provided by the organisation.
Union ministers Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party working president J P Nadda, Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the Congress, Lok Janshakti Party's Ram Vilas Paswan, Biju Janata Dal's Pinaki Misra, Nationalist Congress Party's Sharad Pawar, Bahujan Samaj Party's Satish Mishra, Trinamool Congress's Dinesh Trivedi, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Tiruchi Siva, Communist Party of India's D Raja, Janata Dal-United's Rajiv Ranjan and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's A Navaneethakrishnan and Sukhbir Badal of Akali Dal also spoke.
Shah said Jaitley's demise was a huge personal loss to him. He said Jaitley supported him "like a rock" during his difficult times, an apparent reference to the period when the Gujarat leader was embroiled in a fake encounter case in which he was later discharged.
"When I was on the brink of breaking down many times, he always motivated me," he said, noting that it never appeared to him that he had to leave his home.
If the GST Act was passed unanimously in Parliament, it was because of Jaitley's ability to take all parties along, Shah said, adding that he made personal friends leaders across the party divide.
Rajnath Singh recalled Jaitley's stint as a minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet and noted that the then prime minister praised him effusively for defending India's stand on subsidy for farmers at WTO after somebody had said in a lighter vein that he had a "pro-corporate" image.
Pawar recalled that he would always turn to Jaitley for legal advise when he headed the BCCI, and said he will always be "angry" with the BJP leader for leaving the world before him.
Singhvi spoke about Jaitley's sense of humour and talent for one-liners and recalled some incidents.