New Delhi, Jan 29 (PTI) Chief ministers and leaders from several states Tuesday condoled the death of former union minister and socialist leader George Fernandes.

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 Tuesday. He was 88.

The former defence minister died here after suffering from a prolonged illness.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said Fernandes had played an important role in shaping his political career and announced a two-day state mourning.

In 1996, the Kumar and Fernandes founded Samta Party had joined hands with the BJP and the electoral tie-up was a moderate success in the that year’s Lok Sabha polls, but it paved the way for the formation of a broader National Democratic Alliance after three years. Fernandes had also represented Muzaffarpur and Nalanda in the Lok Sabha.

Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and other state political leaders expressed grief over the demise of Fernandes.

“I am saddened by the demise of Former Union Defence Minister #GeorgeFernandes. He has successfully played his part in demanding positions when the country needed him the most.A Socialist leader, important pillar of labour movements, #GeorgeFernandes was always a people’s leader,” JDS Supremo H D Deve Gowda said in a tweet.

Kumaraswamy remembered Fernandes for his contribution to the Konkan Railway project.

“…#GeorgeFernandes will be remembered by people of Karnataka for his contribution to the KonkanRailway project.May his soul rest in peace. My prayers are with his family,” he tweeted.

In his condolence message, Congress leader Siddaramaiah said, Fernandes was like his “elder brother.” Condoling Fernandes’ death, state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa called him the “voice of labourers and downtrodden.” In his condolence message Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said, “Heartfelt condolence on the passing away of former defence minister George Fernandes. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. May his soul rest in peace.” Gehlot’s deputy Sachin Pilot said, Saddened to learn about the demise of George Fernandes former defence minister, My condolences to the family and prayers for the departed soul.” Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said Fernandes will be remembered as one of the most prominent leaders of the socialist movement of the 1970s.

He said a fearless politician, Fernandes played an important role in the Indian polity.

Expressing grief over Fernandes demise, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar called him “one of the finest defence ministers of India”, while Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said he exemplified simplicity and honesty in life.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao remembered the contributions of Fernandes as a trade union leader and defence minister.

Several leaders from Tamil Nadu, including Chief Minister K Palaniswami and DMK president M K Stalin, paid tributes to Fernandes.

Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan recalled Fernandes’ contributions to India’s 1998 Pokhran nuclear test, while Palaniswami hailed the socialist stalwart as a “multi-faceted” personality.

Stalin recollected Fernandes’ “unflinching support” for the country’s Kargil war victory, when he was the defence minister.

His demise is a “great loss” to the country, the chief minister said.

“He was a multi-faceted personality, being a politician, trade union leader and journalist. He was a good administrator and a hard working person who was affable to all,” the chief minister said in a statement.

Stalin said the late leader was a “fountainhead” of socialist thoughts and his participation in the 1974 Railway strike as a trade unionist was still fresh in the minds of the workers in the sector.

Describing the former Union Minister as a “great revolutionary,” MDMK founder Vaiko said his passing away was a “major loss” to the country.

AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran said he was “deeply saddened” by the demise of Fernandes.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said it is a great loss for the country, politically as well as intellectually, while his West Bengal counterpart Mamta Banerjee said Fernandes was a much admired trade union leader.

Former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah also paid tributes to Fernandes “#GeorgeFernandes was a true socialist ,scrupulously honest and never compromised his values at the altar of power,” Mehbooba said.

“Today we mourn the loss of a titan. He represented an era of leaders who were true statesmen and not just politicians,” she tweeted.

In a tweet, Abdullah said, “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 & did so unabashedly. You were always a friend & well wisher of the people of J&K. God speed,” he said.

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 VP Singh’s National Front coalition government, comprising mostly Left leaning parties.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.