Condolences poured in on Tuesday for former Union minister George Fernandes from politicians of various hues who credited the veteran socialist for strengthening the workers’ movement and described him as a “fiery” leader.
Fernandes, 88, who served as Defence Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, died in New Delhi this morning following a prolonged illness.
Dubbing Fernandes as “a great Parliamentarian and a sincere leader of the masses”, Maharashtra Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao said, “Shri George Fernandes was one of the fieriest leaders of the working class in Mumbai in the post-Independence era. He organised several successful agitations for securing the rights of workers in various organisations”.
Governor Rao also remembered working alongside Fernandes in the Vajpayee cabinet.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that various achievements of Fernandes apart, the latter was a trade union leader first who fought for the welfare and rights of workers and the poor.
“He also served as Defence Minister in Atalji’s Government. We lost a strong, visionary, dedicated and committed leader. This rare leader will be remembered forever. My deepest condolences to his friends & lakhs of followers… #GeorgeFernandes,” Fadnavis tweeted.
Remembering his “close friend” Fernandes, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said he was “deeply saddened” by the former’s demise, and credited him for “strengthening and giving new direction to workers’ (labour) movement in the country.
“Fernandes plunged into workers’ movement, voicing their concerns and fighting for justice. He was instrumental in setting up workers union in Mumbai Municipal Corporation and also organised railway strikes,” he said in a tweet.
“He was one of the best Parliamentarians and also made his mark as an able administrator during his stint as Union Minister of Industry and later Defence.” Pawar stated.
He also remembered Fernandes as a fluent orator who had a command on many languages.
Union minister and Dalit leader Ramdas Athawale described the death of Fernandes as the “descension of a star of the socialist movement”.
Athawale also praised Fernandes for giving permission to his party, the RPI, to hold a rally at the Race Course in Pune in 1998 when the former was the Defence Minister.
Athawale said only the rallies of late Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were allowed at the Race Course till then.
“Fernandes also used to respect Dr BR Ambedkar a lot. He had formed the Samata Party,” Athawale said in a statement.
Leader of the Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said the death of Fernandes marked “an end of a stormy era”.
“He was an excellent organiser, gritty and loyal-to- principles leader. The contribution he made to the workers’ movement apart from politics will be remembered forever. My tributes to George Fernandes…#GeorgeFernandes,” Vikhe-Patil tweeted.