Indian Finance Minister Jaitley opts out of new government

FILE- In this Oct. 7, 2016 file photo, India Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks during a panel discussion at the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings at IMF headquarters in Washington. Jaitley, who carried out Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic initiatives including tax and welfare reforms, has decided not to join Modi's new government to be sworn in Thursday, citing health reasons. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

NEW DELHI — India's finance minister, who carried out Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic initiatives including tax and welfare reforms, has decided not to join Modi's new government to be sworn in Thursday, citing health reasons.

Arun Jaitley, who underwent a kidney transplant last year, released a letter on Wednesday that he wrote to Modi saying he would like to stay away from any responsibility in the new Cabinet.

Jaitley, 66, was a key figure in the government as well as in handling the affairs of Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

He took a three-month break from work last year after undergoing the transplant surgery. In January, he traveled to the United States for a medical checkup.

Jaitley said in the letter that he's had some "serious health challenges" in the past 18 months and should be allowed a reasonable time for treatment.

He added, however, that he would "undertake any work informally to support" the government or the party.

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