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Former cabinet colleagues remember contribution of George Fernandes

Former cabinet colleagues remember contribution of George Fernandes
BJP stalwart L K Advani describing him as a "fearless, forthright and forceful" leader who was a man of principles and believed in utmost simplicity.

George Fernandes was Tuesday remembered fondly by his colleagues in different governments who described him as a man of principles who fought for justice and a distinguished parliamentarian. 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.

BJP stalwart L K Advani describing him as a "fearless, forthright and forceful" leader who was a man of principles and believed in utmost simplicity. Expressing extreme sadness, he said Fernandes always fought for justice, took up the cause of the poor and was a very effective parliamentarian.

"He was a man of principles and believed in utmost simplicity. In the passing away of George Fernandes, the country has not only lost a firebrand socialist but also a thorough gentleman," he said, noting that they were together in the governments headed by Morarji Desai and then Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 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.

Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan recalled him as a firebrand socialist who held kept aloft the beacon of democracy in the darkest hour of the Emergency and, he added, was an inspiration to many upcoming leaders like him. Former Union minister Sharad Yadav, who like Paswan had worked with Fernandes in several governments and political parties, called him his "role model" whose contribution in the labour movement and fight for uplifting the condition of scheduled castes, tribes and backward classes will always be remembered.

Paswan, president of the Lok Janshakti Party, heaped praise on Fernandes for his readiness to mentor younger colleagues and recalled that it was he who guided him like "light in the darkness" in 1969 when the Dalit leader was at a political crossroad. "He was a source of inspiration for me and many like me. He was a great fighter," he said.

Yadav said Fernandes lived a simple life and was a true friend and guide. "I have lost a fatherly figure and true guide for me not only in personal life but in politics also. In his passing away, the country has lost a distinguished parliamentarian, a protectionist working for workers and the poor," he said.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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