NEW DELHI — Veteran socialist George Fernandes, who was the defence minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, passed away Tuesday following a prolonged illness, his long time associate Jaya Jaitly said.
He was 88.
Fernandes was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which had forced him out of the public eye for last many years, and had recently contracted swine flu, she said, adding that he died at his residence here.
He was India’s defence minister in the NDA government headed by Vajpayee when India fought the Kargil war in 1999. It was during his tenure that India conducted nuclear test at Pokhran in 1998.
He was the industry minister under the Jan Sangh government which had defeated former prime minster Indira Gandhi in 1977.
Tributes poured in for the veteran leader, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he was frank and fearless, and never deviated from his ideology.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote in a Facebook post:
He had withdrawn from public life after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His last stint as a parliamentarian was as a Rajya Sabha MP between August 2009 and July 2010.
This is a developing story. Further details are awaited.