Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday condoled the demise of former Union minister George Fernandes and remembered him as “the best of India’s political leadership”. Taking to Twitter, Modi said, “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 (George) was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised. Saddened by his passing away.”
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.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 29, 2019
Recalling George as a “fiery” leader who fought for justice, the prime minister 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.
He added, “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.”
Fernandes (88) passed away today morning after being bedridden for the past few years.
The former Union minister was born in Mangalore in Karnataka in 1930. His first stint in politics was with the Janata Party after Emergency. He was elected to Parliament from the Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar in 1977 and was appointed Union Minister for Industries. During his term, he took on American multinational companies like IBM and Coca-Cola.
In an interview with The Indian Express in 1988, Fernandes had iterated that he was no anti-MNC but pro-Swadeshi. He said: “People keep saying that I threw out Coke but I was well within law to ask them about the formula they were so secretive about. The Indian legislation stated that in such a situation I could either ask them to go out or to dilute their equity to 49 per cent and they opted for the first.
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, connecting 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, between 1998 and 2004. His term was eventful as it witnessed the Kargil war and Pokhran test. Vajpayee stood by him during the numerous controversies, including the Barak Missile scandal.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines