Former defence minister George Fernandes passed away at the age of 88 on Tuesday. While tributes poured in on social media as politicians condoled the socialist leader's demise, there was an interesting distinction between the messages shared by the BJP leaders and those by the Congress.
While senior BJP leadership, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Rajnath Singh, party president Amit Shah, praised the socialist leader for his role during the Emergency, Congress leaders stayed clear of any mention of the 'E' word or the former Union minister's anti-Indira Gandhi stance. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said, "I’m sorry to hear about the passing of former Parliamentarian & Union Minister, George Fernandes Ji. My condolences to his family and friends in this time of grief."
In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remembered "George Sahab" as one of the "most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised".
"Frank and fearless, forthright and farsighted, he made a valuable contribution to our country. He was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised," he said.
He further said, "When we think of George Fernandes, we remember most notably the fiery trade union leader who fought for justice, the leader who could humble the mightiest of politicians at the hustings, a visionary railway minister and a great defence minister who made India safe and strong."
During his long years in public life, George Sahab never deviated from his political ideology. He resisted the Emergency tooth and nail. His simplicity and humility were noteworthy. My thoughts are with his family, friends and lakhs of people grieving. May his soul rest in peace.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 29, 2019
President Ram Nath Kovind hailed the former Union minister as "a champion of democracy".
Distressed to learn of the passing of Shri George Fernandes, who served India in many capacities, including as Defence Minister. He epitomised simple living and high thinking. And was a champion of democracy, during the Emergency and beyond. We will all miss him #PresidentKovind — President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) January 29, 2019
Saddened to know about the demise of great leader George Fernandes. He was an icon of socialist movement, a great fighter for freedom and democracy during Emergency and an outstanding defense Minister of India.
My deep condolences.
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) January 29, 2019
His stint in public offices saw him make some defining changes, particularly Railways. The most abiding memories of Fernandes ji are those of his fierce opposition to the emergency in 1975. He stood steadfastly to protect India’s democratic values.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) January 29, 2019
National general secretary of the BJP Ram Madhav called Fernandes "a man of the masses." "He rose from them, lived like one throughout his life, kept his doors open to them 24/7, and practised politics of principles. A great nationalist, he was the right hand man of Atalji in managing a very difficult 23-Party NDA coalition. Railways to Defence - his contribution to governance and nation-building was yeomen. Tributes to the inspiring life of a great leader."
स्व. जॉर्ज फर्नांडिस जी ने हमेशा मजदूरों और मेहनतकश वर्ग के अधिकारों की आवाज बुलन्द की। श्री फर्नांडिस जी के निधन से हुई क्षति की भरपाई होना कठिन है। ईश्वर दिवंगत आत्मा को शांति एवं शोक संतप्त परिजनों को सम्बल प्रदान करे। — Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) January 29, 2019
While Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot offered him a "tearful tribute", Textile Minister Smriti Irani tweeted that Fernandes' contribution towards strengthening democracy "will be etched in the hearts & minds of Indians forever".
देश के पूर्व रक्षामंत्री एवं मजदूरों के नेता श्री जार्ज फ़र्नान्डिस जी के निधन का दुःखद समाचार प्राप्त हुआ। उनके चरणों में अश्रुपूरित श्रद्धांजलि अर्पित करता हूँ। ईश्वर उनकी आत्मा को शांति प्रदान करे!#GeorgeFernandes pic.twitter.com/qKLgOtT8hp — Dr. Thawarchand Gehlot (@TCGEHLOT) January 29, 2019
Saddened by the demise of former Defence Minister George Fernandes. An able administrator, a distinguished politician, his contribution towards strengthening democracy will be etched in the hearts & minds of Indians forever. My heartfelt condolences to his loved ones. Om Shanti🙏🏼 — Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) January 29, 2019
Congress spokespersons Abhishek Manu Singhvi — who tweeted quotes by Fernandes — and Randeep Singh Surjewala also condoled the death.
"One should learn from the past, but one should not live in the past. My concern is to look to the future, learn from the past, and deal with the present." - #GeorgeFernandes The national has lost a veteran political fighter. May his soul rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/i0frvozoYV — Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) January 29, 2019
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that after spending an evening with "the fiery trade unionist", he was "hugely impressed by his ideals, decency and integrity".
I spent one evening with George Fernandes in NY & was hugely impressed by his ideals, decency& integrity. The fiery trade unionist of my childhood had mellowed into the statesman& effective Minister. His passing away at 88 marks the end of an era. RIP https://t.co/157xBZpJ6b — Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 29, 2019
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted, "Rest in peace, George Fernandes Sahib. You were a tireless crusader fighting for the voiceless, the marginalised & for those that needed someone in their corner. You called a spade a spade and did so unabashedly. You were always a friend and well wisher of the people of Jammu and Kashmir." Calling Fernandes his role model, Sharad Yadav said that the two were associated for more than four decades.
#GeorgeFernandes Deeply saddened on his demise. My association with him was for more than four decades. He was a role model for me. He always fought for d welfare of labour class & under privileged classes. His contribution in Indian politics & Parliament will never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/kUZFQscPL1 — SHARAD YADAV (@SharadYadavMP) January 29, 2019
Updated Date: Jan 29, 2019 12:17:28 IST