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Last Updated : Jan 29, 2019 11:45 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Emergency-era 'rebel leader' George Fernandes passes away at 88

A union minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, Fernandes had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease

Former Defence Minister George Fernandes passed away on January 29. He was 88 years old.

A union minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, Fernandes had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Fernandes had been crippled by the illness and had withdrawn from public life.

Fernandes, born in south Karnataka, started his political career in Mumbai as a trade union leader.


He became famous as a 'giant killer' when he defeated Congress veteran SK Patil in the latter's bastion in Mumbai in the 1967 Lok Sabha elections.

He founded the Samata Party and rose to fame as an anti-Emergency crusader. He also served as a union minister in Morarji Desai's Janata Party government.

The last stint of this charismatic leader as a parliamentarian was as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the Rajya Sabha between August 2009 and July 2010.

Bihar government has announced two-day state mourning.

Tributes immediately poured in after reports of his demise.

President Ram Nath Kovind said via a tweet: "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."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a series of tweets: "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."

In another tweet, 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."

"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," PM Modi added.

In June 2018, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani called him a “rebel leader” and said that the country needed such leaders to progress and develop.

"If there were no rebels, the country would not have gained Independence. Rebel leaders like George should keep coming up so that the country can progress and develop," Advani said after inaugurating a website on Fernandes -- georgefernandes.org.
First Published on Jan 29, 2019 09:24 am