Maharashtra leaders mourn demise of George Fernandes

Maharashtra leaders cutting across political lines mourned the demise of veteran trade unionist and former Union Minister George Fernandes, here on Tuesday.

Governor C.V. Rao described him as "one of the fiercest leaders of the working class in Mumbai in the post-Independence era, who was a leader of the masses with unprecedented popularity".

"Fernandes served as union minister in various governments. I had the privilege of working with him in the government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At my instance, Fernandes had unveiled a statue of Param Vir Chakra awardee Capt Vijaya Raghunandan Rao in Karimnagar, Telangana," Rao recalled.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the stormy petrel of the post-Independence era has gone and the nation has lost an important political functionary.

"We have lost a tall leader in Indian politics. Apart from his other achievements, he had been a trade union leader first and fought his long battle for the welfare and rights of the workers and poor," Fadnavis said.

Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan said the country has lost "a soulful leader" who fought for the workers, the poor, the downtrodden and the labour classes.

"His one word could shut down Mumbai and the working classes have lost a tall leader who served well in different capacities as union minister," Chavan said.

Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar said the country has lost a fighter-leader who dedicated his life to the commoners.

"He was an influential fluent orator, having command over many languages, and my close friend... I have lost a senior colleague in public life," Pawar said.

Expressing grief, former Union Minister Milind Deora said "Fernandes liked reminding me that he had also represented the Mumbai South (constituency) before I was born" and would walk home from Parliament daily sans any security."

NCP state spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the nation has lost "a dynamic grassroots leader who led from the front, and a political stalwart."

Starting his unionism and political life in Mumbai in the 1950s, Fernandes, 88, passed away in New Delhi at a private hospital following prolonged illness.