New Delhi: Former defence minister George Fernandes passed away early on Tuesday morning, reported ANI. He was 88.

Fernandes had Alzheimer’s disease and retreated from active politics in 2010 when he served as a Rajya Sabha MP. Some reports also suggest that Fernandes suffered from Parkinson’s disease as well. Recently, he had contracted swine flu, said reports.

Fernandes was a key member of the Janata Dal and the founder of the Samata Party. He also held several other ministerial portfolios, including communications, industry and railways.

Soon after the news of his death, tributes poured in from political leaders across the spectrum.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to condole the former stalwart’s death. He wrote, “George Sahab represented the best of India’s political leadership. Frank&fearless,forthright&farsighted, he made a valuable contribution to our country. He was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised. Saddened by his passing away.”

He said, “When we think of Mr. 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.”

The PM added, “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.”

Congress President Rahul Gandhi also condoled the demise of Fernandes. “I’m sorry to hear about the passing away of former Parliamentarian & Union Minister, George Fernandes ji. My condolences to his family and friends in this time of grief,” he said in a Facebook post.

His party colleague and Congress spokesperson RS Surjewala tweeted, “My condolences on the passing away of former Union Minister, Sh George Fernandes. May his soul rest in peace.”

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “I offer my deepest condolences on passing away of former defence minister George Fernandes. He was a fiery trade union leader who fought for justice. May his soul rest in peace. My thoughts are with his family.”

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said, “I offer condolences at his passing away. He committed his life to the country. He fought for justice for trade unions. I considered him an icon.”

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, “He served the nation in several capacities and held key portfolios like Defence and Railways at different times. He led many labour movements and fought against the injustice towards them. His tenure as the Defence Minister was outstanding. May his soul rest in peace.”