Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee among others on Tuesday expressed grief over the demise of former Defence Minister George Fernandes.
Fernandes passed away on Tuesday at the age of 88. He was the Defence Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government when the Kargil War broke out between India and Pakistan in 1999, and India conducted its nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1998. Besides that, he also held several ministerial portfolios including communications, industry and railways.
"I'm sorry to hear about the passing away of former Parliamentarian and Union Minister, George Fernandes. My condolences to his family and friends in this time of grief," Rahul Gandhi wrote on Facebook.
Former Defence Minister and senior Congress party leader A K Antony also expressed grief over Fernandes' demise.
"I would like to express my condolence on the sad demise of my old colleague George Fernandes. He was a very dynamic leader. I met him twice as Chief Minister of Kerala. Once I met him in 1977 when he was the Industries Minister in Morarji Desai cabinet. I asked him for the Malabar Cement factory in Palghar. We were political opponents. But without showing any kind of differences, he immediately contacted the offices and directed them to do the needful," Antony told ANI.
"Second time I met him when he was the Defence Minister in Vajpayee-led government. I approached him to find a solution to this long pending dispute between Navy and Kerala government. He tried his best to find a solution to this problem. I remember his timely helps. After that, I became Defence Minister. I had the opportunity to meet Defence forces all over India. During my interactions, I realised he is one of the lauded and respected Defence Minister not only officials, but the jawans. He took personal interest for the welfare of the Defence forces," he added.
Speaking to ANI, Nitin Gadkari said, "I offer condolences at his passing away. He committed his life to the country. He fought for justice for trade unions. I considered him as an icon."
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, "George Fernandes served the nation in several capacities and held key portfolios like Defence and Railways at different times. He led many labour movements and fought against the injustice towards them. His tenure as Defence Minister was outstanding. May his soul rest in peace."
Mamata Banerjee described the late leader as "much admired trade unionist".
"I have known him for decades. My condolences to his family and admirers," she said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar described Fernandes as a "fiery trade union leader who fought for justice."
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said, "George Fernandez was a great leader. He is the one, who raised the voice of labourers in Parliament. He is one of the major leaders who built trade union movement in the country. He was elected nine times for Lok Sabha and gained fame as best Parliamentarian. George Fernandez is an example of simplicity and truthfulness.
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