New Delhi: One of the most popular defence ministers, veteran politician George Fernandes passed away on Tuesday morning. He was 88.
Fernandes had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for a long time and was down with swine flu for the last few days as well.
First elected to the Lok Sabha in 1967, George Mathew Fernandes served several times as a Union Cabinet Minister, holding very important portfolios such as defence, railways and communications at the Centre.
Born in Mangalore in 1930, Fernandes was also known as a giant killer as he had emerged as a staunch opponent of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the days of emergency in the country.
Fernandes, whose last stint as an MP was in the Rajya Sabha during 2009-2010, was a key member of the Janata Dal. He founded the Samata Party.
Fernandes oversaw the Pokhran nuclear tests of 1998 and the Kargil war in 1999. He was also famous for taking frequent trips to the Siachen glacier to look after the well being of the soldiers deployed there and providing facilities such as snow scooters to them cutting down the bureaucracy of his ministry.
“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,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
The Prime Minister tweeted that “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.”
“George Sahab represented the best of India’s political leadership. Frank and fearless, forthright and farsighted, he made a valuable contribution to our country. He was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised. Saddened by his passing away,” he added.