‘He was frank and fearless’: PM Modi condoles demise of George Fernandes

‘He was frank and fearless’: PM Modi condoles demise of George Fernandes

‘He was frank and fearless’: PM Modi condoles demise of George Fernandes

George Mathew Fernandes, former defence minister in the Vajpayee government, breathed his last today in New Delhi at 7 AM.

"We have lost a leader who was a fighter and dedicated his life to the cause of workers, labourers and common people of India", said NCP president Sharad Pawar, who shared a deep personal bond with Fernandes despite their political differences.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "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. Fernandes resigned as defence minister over the Tehelka expose in early 2001, but returned to the minister later that year.

Fernandes epitomised irony - as union leader he organised India's biggest railway strikes and later became railway minister; despite his socialist ideology, he became industry minister; harbouring a deep distrust for the RSS he allied with the BJP.

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George Fernandes, 88, will be long-remembered as a truly modern politician, who unapologetically challenged the status-quo in public and personal spaces, with conviction and charisma that did not need mega-publicity stunts to keep the country in his thrall. "His simplicity and humility were noteworthy", the PM said.

Distressed to learn of the passing of Shri George Fernandes, who served India in many capacities, including as Defence Minister. At the beginning of his political career, he had earned the moniker of "George the Giant Killer" after he defeated veteran Congress leader SK Patil in 1967.

Thousands of protesters, including Mr Fernandes, were arrested and jailed by Mrs Gandhi's government.

His maiden stint at the Centre came when he was made Union Minister in the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai between 1977 and 1980.

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Union minister Nitin Gadkari said he considered Fernandes an icon.

George Fernandes would remain part of the national consciousness as a politician who was completely transparent and unapologetic about his ideological eclecticism.

Following the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998, Fernandes is said to have termed China "India's enemy number one", a statement he later termed a media concoction.

He stepped down as the Defence Minister in 2004 after "coffin gate" broke out. He was also accused of being involved in two other cases- Barak Missile scandal and Operation West End.

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Apart from his role in active politics, he had also authored books on politics including his autobiography.

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