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Former Defence Minister George Fernandes is dead

January 30, 2019

George Fernandes, India's former Defence Minister passed away at the age of 88 years. He had been unwell and bedridden for many years. Fernandes was Defence Minister between 1998 and 2004.

Mr Fernandes was one of the tallest leaders of the socialist movement in the 1970s and a senior Janata Dal leader before he founded the Samata Party.

He held many other ministerial portfolios as well like communications, industry and railways

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned his death in a tweet,

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. - Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Mr Fernandes was born in Mangalore in 1930 and was training to be a Roman Catholic priest when he joined politics, first as a trade union leader. In 1974, he organised a nationwide railway strike.

During the 1975 Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he was arrested for the conspiracy of blowing up government buildings. He became the hero of the Emergency and was made minister when the Janata Party came to power in 1977.

Rich tributes were paid after news of his death came in. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari called him an "icon" and said, "I offer condolences at his passing away. He committed his life to the country. He fought for justice for trade unions".

His companion until a few years ago, Jaya Jaitley said, that his body would be cremated and his ashes buried. "He had expressed his wished earlier to be cremated but during his last days, he said he wanted to be buried. So, we will cremate the body and bury the ashes, to fulfil both his wishes".

Mr Fernandes' funeral will be held today after the arrival of his son, Sean Fernandes from the United States.

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