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Dignitaries continue to stream in to pay respect to Fernandes; admirers from Bihar to K'taka


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Senior leaders, veteran politicians and admirers from various parts of the country Wednesday made a beeline here to pay their last respect to George Fernandes.
Former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Harivansh, former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Ravi Shankar Prasad, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi and Bihar JD(U) president Bashistha Narayan Singh, among others paid tribute to the departed leader.
Fernandes' former trade union comrades and colleagues came from places as far as Muzaffarpur and Mangaluru, and recalled the life and legacy of a man, who, they concurred, "epitomised simplicity" despite being a firebrand politician known for his fiery oratory skills.
Yashwant Sinha, reminisced the circumstances that led to his first meeting with Fernandes thanks to the Banka bye-polls in the 1980s in Bihar.
Fernandes' body has been preserved in a casket after embalming, as his son, Sean, is yet to arrive in Delhi from the US. At 88, he died on Tuesday at his residence after prolonged illness.
Sushil Modi, who travelled from Bihar to Delhi Wednesday to pay respect to the socialist leader, broke down after seeing the mortal remains of Fernandes.
"He symbolised simplicity. Once, I was travelling with him in a plane when he was the defence minister. And, instead of the Business Class, I found him sitting in Economy Class onboard, and that too in the last row of the seats. He was that simple," Modi told PTI.
The Bihar deputy chief minister also recalled the time when Fernandes had "refused to be a minister" in the Morarji Desai's cabinet of the government formed right after the end of the Emergency.
"Hordes of political workers had gheraoed him at the V P House here, asking him to join the cabinet, and he eventually did," he said.
Union minister Ram Vilas Pasawn and son Chirag Paswan also were among the visitors who came to his residence to pay their respect to the former defence minister.
"He was a crusader for the poor and the downtrodden, and masses used to be held in a thrall by his speeches. His simplicity was such that he used to wash his own clothes earlier. Wore a simple khadi kurta and a pyjama but lived by high ideals," Paswan told reporters.
Chirag said he was an inspiration for politicians and still is, and even for "young politicians like me". "I hope to imbibe his values in my life," he said.
The atmosphere at his residence was solemn yet many felt Fernandes was liberated from the excruciating pain after the Alzheimer's disorder had left him debilitated.
Trade union comrades and his former colleagues hugged each other, many teary-eyed, to bid goodbye to their leader and mentor.
His admirers came from Mangaluru to Muzaffarpur and Noida to Roorkee, at his residence -- Shanti Niwas -- on Wednesday, many recollecting stories and anecdotes associated with 'George Sahab', as he was affectionately addressed by many.
L Kalappa, 65, general secretary of Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat's Karnataka unit, recalled the letters that Fernandes used to send to him in Kanadda.
"He was fluent in Kanadda, as he was born and raised in Mangalore. And, whenever, he visited Bangalore or interacted with workers, he spoke in Kanadda only. He spoke many other regional languages too that allowed him to connect to people in a much stronger way," he said.
People continued to stream in from morning till evening, and as twilight fell, the pall of gloom continued to hang over his residence, while police security personnel kept vigil outside.
A number of leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajanth Singh, BJP president Amit Shah and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, had visited the bereaved family at their residence in pscale Panchsheel Park to pay their respects.
In the living room, where his body has been kept, the glass casket got thickly covered with wreaths and flower petals, while the Emergency-era iconic image of him holding his chained hand up in air in defiance adorned a corner of the room with a board on top bearing -- 'A Leader for Indian - George Fernandes'.

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 9:40 PM IST

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