Former Union Minister and nine-time Lok Sabha MP, George Fernandes breathed his last at the age of 88.He had been ill for the past few years.
Fernandes served as the Defence Minister between 1998 and 2004.He was one of the most prominent leaders of the socialist movement in the 1970s.
Fernandes was a senior Janata Dal leader before he founded the Samata Party. Apart from the Defence Ministry, Fernandes also held several portfolios such as communications, industry and railways during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government.
Expressing grief over the leader’s demise, PM Narendra Modi tweeted-
George Sahab represented the best of India’s political leadership.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 29, 2019
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.
Fernandes was born in Mangaluru in 1930 and was training to be a Roman Catholic priest when he was drawn to trade union politics.
During the 1975 Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government, George Fernandes was arrested for what was dubbed the “Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy” to blow up government establishments and railway tracks. He contested the 1977 election from jail and won the Muzaffarpur constituency in Bihar.
George Fernandes became a hero of the Emergency. He was made minister when the Janata Party came to power in 1977 with Morarji Desai as Prime Minister. One of his prominent acts at the time was to force the exit of Coca Cola and IBM, which had refused to dilute their stake in their Indian associates. Coke left India and returned only two decades later.
President Ram Nath Kovind also condoled the demise of the leader and tweeted-
Distressed to learn of the passing of Shri George Fernandes, who served India in many capacities, including as Defence Minister. He epitomised simple living and high thinking. And was a champion of democracy, during the Emergency and beyond. We will all miss him #PresidentKovind— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) January 29, 2019
Fernandes also authored three books — What Ails the Socialists, Railway Strike of 1974 and George Fernandes Speaks.