Patna, Jan 29 (PTI) Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Tuesday said former union minister George Fernandes had played an important role in shaping his political career and guiding him.

Kumar has announced a two-day state mourning following the socialist leader’s demise .

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.

Kumar recounted the important role Fernandes had played in shaping his political career with the formation of the Samta Party in the 90s which was constituted to challenge Lalu Prasad, who was heading the Janata Dal government in the state.

“His guidance has been of great importance to all of us. It shall be our endeavour to live up to his expectations while we have the opportunity to serve the people,” said a teary-eyed Kumar who, was accompanied by party colleagues such as JDU state president Vashishth Narayan Singh and Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary.

Kumar, the JDU president, was speaking at a condolence meet at the party’s headquarters here. “Everybody has to die one day. And given his prolonged illness, it can be said that he found liberation in death. But it is a very sad day for people like us,” Kumar told reporters. A JDU leader said “we have seen him (Kumar)… so moved by the death of a political associate.” “It speaks of the depth of their relationship, which weathered many ups and downs.” the leader said.

The Samta Party- formed by Kumar and Fernandes in 1994 — had fought the 1995 assembly polls along with ultra-Left CPI(ML). In 1995, the Samta Party joined hands with the BJP and the electoral tie-up was a moderate success in that year’s Lok Sabha polls. However, it paved the way for the formation of a broader National Democratic Alliance three years later.

The then NDA had a number of parties which had ideologies different from that of the BJP.

The Samta Party merged with the Janata Dal (United), a breakaway faction of the Janata Dal headed by Sharad Yadav in 2003, retaining the flag of the former and the nomenclature of the latter.

The merger resulted in the emergence of a new entity that enjoyed a political heft superior to that of the BJP unlike in the past when, the Samta Party and the JD(U) were seen as junior partners in the coalition.

When the JD(U)-BJP coalition was voted to power in the state in 2005, a year after the NDA was ousted from the Centre, Kumar gave up his Lok Sabha membership and became the chief minister.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.