Former Defence Minister George Fernandes passes away at 88

Legendary George Fernandes passes away at 88

A native of Mangaluru, George Fernandes rose to fame as an anti-Emergency crusader and civil rights activists and served as a Union Minister in the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai that came to power in 1977 to 1980. The government withdrew charges against the Kashmiri journalist whom the Defence Minister himself phoned after his release to say that the entire episode had, "started a debate on the OSA within the establishment".

Fernandes, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, had been bed-ridden for more than eight years, family sources said.

In 1994, after the disintegration of the Janata Party, Fernandes formed the Samata Party.

Fernandes had served as the minster of Railways under the VP Singh government between 1989 and 1990.

Fernandes, whose last stint as an MP was in the Rajya Sabha during 2009-2010, was a key member of the Janata Dal.

George Fernandes would remain part of the national consciousness as a politician who was completely transparent and unapologetic about his ideological eclecticism.

He served as the Defence Minister in the National Democratic Alliance from 1998 to 2004. He was later given a clean chit by two commissions of inquiry.

George Fernandes was born on 3rd June 1930 to John Joseph Fernandes and Alice Martha Fernandes, a Mangalorean Catholic family. He was married to Leila Kabir, but separated from her.

The last rites will be conducted at Lodhi crematorium and his ashes buried as per his wishes, his close associate Jaya Jaitly said.

He was a strong opponent of the Indira Gandhi emergency period. He was one of the prominent leaders of the JD (U). From the fiery trade unionist he was, bringing the entire country to a standstill with the All India Railway strike of 1974, Fernandes was viciously attacked when he joined Atal Bihari Vajpayee's coalition in the late 1990s. He completed his Class X from St Aloysius College, Mangaluru, and chose to quit studies and joined the seminary to become a priest against the wishes of his father.

China reacted to him saying his viewpoint was "ridiculous and unworthy of refutation" while even in India, there were not many people who had backed the leader's stand.

In Mumbai, he led the taxi drivers' union and was jailed several times for participating in protests and shutdowns that disrupted life.

But soon, he was disillusioned after studying philosophy for two years till 1948.

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