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Fernandes passes away

 NEW DELHI, Jan 29 - George Fernandes, a lifelong socialist despite his political adventurism that included Cabinet posts in two ideological opposite governments where he ousted Coca-Cola in 1977 and oversaw the Kargil war in 1999, died on Tuesday. He was 88.

Fernandes was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which had forced him out of the public eye for several years, and had recently contracted swine flu, his long time associate, Jaya Jaitly, said, adding that he died at his residence here.

A call was received at a private hospital from his home and an ambulance was dispatched although doctors had declared him dead at his home already, hospital sources said.

“Fernandes was attended to at his home by a Max Healthcare team, which found him unresponsive and declared him dead at 06:42 AM today,” the hospital said in a statement.

Fernandes, who was born to a Christian family in Mangalore, Karnataka, burst into national limelight when as a firebrand trade unionist in Mumbai he organised a Railways strike in 1974 that brought the country to a standstill. Ironically, he became the Railways minister in 1989 under V.P. Singh’s National Front coalition government, comprising mostly Left leaning parties.

Fernandes had played a critical role in the anti-Emergency movement of the opposition parties that ousted Indira Gandhi in 1977. During the 1975-77 Emergency, when civil liberties were severely curtailed and opposition throttled, Fernandes was arrested in the so-called Baroda Dynamite case.

He is survived by his wife and one son. There was no immediate word on when his last rites would be performed. – PTI

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