George Fernandes, a former Defence Minister of India, has died at 88. He had been unwell and bedridden over the past few years.
George Fernandes served as Defence Minister between 1998 and 2004.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on #GeorgeFernandes: I offer condolences at his passing away. He committed his life to the country. He fought for justice for trade unions. I considered him an icon. pic.twitter.com/gf42Kxg1Yj
— ANI (@ANI) January 29, 2019
One of the most prominent leaders of the socialist movement in the 1970s, George Fernandes was a senior Janata Dal leader before he founded the Samata Party.
Apart from the defence ministry during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government, Mr Fernandes held several ministerial portfolios including communications, industry and railways.
"Represented the best of India’s political leadership," tweets PM Narendra Modi on death of former defence minister #GeorgeFernandes
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— NDTV (@ndtv) January 29, 2019
Fernandes was born in Mangalore in Karnataka in 1930. An anti-Emergency crusader, Fernandes was a fiery socialist and arch-enemy of Indira Gandhi. He went underground during Emergency, but was arrested in 1976 in connection with the Baroda dynamite case. A year later, after Emergency was lifted, he was elected to Parliament from the Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar with a resounding victory. He was appointed Union Minister for Industries in the Morarji Desai government from 1977 to 1979. During his term, he took on American multinational companies like IBM and Coca-Cola, making them leave the country.
Heartfelt tributes to #GeorgeFernandes . May his soul RIP 🙏Om Shanti. The 4 pics show his vast political career. Anti-Emergency crusader to Pokhran N-blast to Kargil war hero to Anti- Congress voice. He was a die hard #Samajwadi leader. He lived a very humble life. pic.twitter.com/QflA7SnrE4
— Sumit Awasthi (@awasthis) January 29, 2019
Fernandes later joined the Janata Dal. He served as Railways minister in V P Singh government from 1989 to 1990. He was instrumental in setting up the Konkan Railway project, which connected Mangalore and Bombay.
In 1994, after the disintegration of the Janata Party, Fernandes formed the Samata Party. It later allied with the BJP and he soon became a close confidant of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was appointed convenor of the National Democratic Party (NDA).
Fernandes served as defence minister for two terms, from 1998-2001 and then from 2001-2004. His first term was eventful as it witnessed the Kargil war and first Pokhran test. Vajpayee stood by him during the numerous controversies, including the Barak Missile scandal.
Fernandes also authored three books — What Ails the Socialists, Railway Strike of 1974 and George Fernandes Speaks