Bihar CM Nitish Kumar breaks down while paying tribute to George Fernandes
George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar were party and cabinet colleagues for several years.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday broke down in public while paying tribute to former defence minister George Fernandes, who passed away this morning at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi following prolonged illness. The Bihar government declared a two-day state mourning as a mark of respect to George Fernandes.
Recalling his association with George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar said, “A new party was formed under his leadership and guidance. His guidance has been crucial in whatever I have learnt and whatever I strive to do for the people. It is certain that everyone has to depart, and given his health condition, it (the death) is a kind of deliverance for him. But for all of us, this is a very sad situation. It would be my resolve not to forget his guidance and his fight for the rights of the people.”
George Fernandes was a senior party colleague of Nitish Kumar. The two leaders had founded the Samata Party in 1994 after they parted ways with the erstwhile Janata Dal that had formed a governemnt at the Centre in 1989 following a defeat of the Congress party on the back of an election campaign dominated by the allegations of irregularities in the Bofors deal signed during the tenue of Rajiv Gandhi government.
Nitish Kumar later formed the Janata Dal (United) or the JD(U). Fernandes merged his Samata Party in the JD(U) in 2003. Fernandes was the convener of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that formed the government at the Centre under Atal Bihari Vajpayee with the JD(U) forming an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
George Fernandes was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for a eight years. He contracted swine flu recently and developed severe cold and cough. In political circles, Fernandes was known as “the giant killer of Indian politics” after he defeated SK Patil of the Congress in 1967 parliamentary elections in Mumbai. Patil was then referred to as “the King of Mumbai”.
Fernandes was a fiercely combative trade union leader during 1970s when he organised a number of hartals including the one in railways in 1974, just on the eve of imposition of Emergency. When the Indira Gandhi government imposed Emergency in 1975, Fernandes went “underground” but kept his activities alive.
Fernandes became the Union minister for industries in 1977 when the first non-Congress government was formed at the Centre under Janata Party leader Morarji Desai. He was the defence minister in the Vajpayee government when India conducted sencond nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1998 and when Kargil war was fought in 1999.