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Published On: Tue, Jan 29th, 2019

Fiery trade union leader George Fernandes passes away

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georgeNEW DELHI : Former defense minister George Fernandes’s death attracted a unanimous outpouring of grief and tributes from leaders cutting across party lines. Leading the tributes was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who penned a poignant testimonial to the veteran leader in a series of tweets as news of the 88-year-old’s death broke. Fernandes was the Defence Minister during Atal Bihari Vajpayee led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Cabinet. He was a convenor of the NDA.
Calling Fernandes as one of the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalized, the PM said he was “saddened by his passing away.” Remembering “George Sahab” as the best of India’s political leadership, Modi described the anti-emergency crusader frank and fearless, forthright and farsighted.
Fernandes, who served as the defence minister in the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpyee between 1998 and 2004, had been crippled by illness and had withdrawn from public life for the last decade. Hailing him as the most “fiery trade union leader” and a “great defence minister”, PM Modi said, “When we think of Mr. George Fernandes, we remember most notably the fiery trade union leader who fought for justice, the leader who could humble the mightiest of politicians at the hustings, a visionary Railway Minister and a great Defence Minister who made India safe and strong.”

President of India Ram Nath Kovind,in a tweet,said Fernandes epitomised simple living and high thinking, adding that he was a “champion of democracy, during the Emergency and beyond.” Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who had denied a party ticket to him from Muzaffarpur, which could have ensured his tenth term as a Lok Sabha member, also offered his deepest condolences. “He was a fiery trade union leader who fought for justice. May his soul rest in peace. My thoughts are with his family,” he said.
“When we think of Mr George Fernandes, we remember most notably the fiery trade union leader who fought for justice, the leader who could humble the mightiest of politicians at the hustings, a visionary Railway Minister and a great Defence Minister who made India safe and strong… During his long years in public life, George Sahab never deviated from his political ideology. He resisted the Emergency tooth and nail. His simplicity and humility were noteworthy. My thoughts are with his family, friends and lakhs of people grieving. May his soul rest in peace,” Modi said in another tweet.

Meanwhile, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi decided to offer condolences through a Facebook post. “I’m sorry to hear about the passing away of former Parliamentarian & Union Minister, George Fernandes Ji. My condolences to his family and friends in this time of grief,” he said. Soon after, tributes from other senior political leaders from all frays started pouring on Twitter.
Fernandes, who served as the defence minister in the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpyee between 1998 and 2004, had been crippled by illness and had withdrawn from public life. His last stint as a parliamentarian was as Rajya Sabha MP between August 2009 and July 2010.

A native of Mangaluru, George Fernandes was the founder of the Samata Party. He rose to fame as an anti-Emergency crusader and civil rights activists and served as a Union Minister in the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai that came to power in 1977 to 1980. Fernandes stepped down as the Defence Minister in 2004 after ‘coffin gate’ broke out. He was later absolved by two commissions of inquiry.(With Agency Inputs ).

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