LK Advani remembers George Fernandes as a fearless, forthright and forceful leader
Veteran BJP leader LK Advani Tuesday recalled his long association with George Fernandes and described him as a "fearless, forthright and forceful" leader who always fought for justice. Fernandes, a lifelong socialist despite his political adventurism that included Cabinet posts in two ideological opposite governments where he ousted Coca-Cola in 1977 and oversaw the Kargil war in 1999, died Tuesday. He was 88.
In a statement, the BJP leader said, "Fernandes was a fearless, forthright and a forceful leader, who started his career as a trade union activist. He always fought for justice, took up the cause for the poor and was a very effective parliamentarian." Advani said he had had a long association with Fernandes and worked with him in the government under Morarji Desai and later under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Fernandes was a man of principles, who believed in utmost simplicity, he said. In his demise the country has not only lost a fire brand socialist but also a thorough gentleman, the BJP leader added.
Fernandes was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, which had forced him out of the public eye for several years, and had recently contracted swine flu. He died at his residence here. Fernandes, who was born to a Christian family in Mangalore, Karnataka, burst into national limelight when as a firebrand trade unionist in Mumbai he organised a Railways strike in 1974 that brought the country to a standstill. Ironically, he became the Railways minister in 1989 under V.P. Singh's National Front coalition government, comprising mostly Left leaning parties.
Despite being a staunch critic of the RSS, Fernandes joined the BJP-led NDA government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998 and 1999, in which he was appointed the defense minister. Under his stewardship India fought the Kargil war in 1999. It was also during his tenure that India conducted nuclear test at Pokhran in 1998.
(With inputs from agencies.)