Known for his composure, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar broke down as he paid rich tributes to George Fernandes, who died after battling prolonged illness at Delhi’s AIIMS today. “His leadership and guidance gave us opportunities to learn a lot. His guidance was crucial for all of us,” Kumar said in his broken voice. “Whatever I have learnt, it is because of him (Fernandes). He was unwell for a long time and this death was a ‘mukti’ for him. Still, this is very upsetlling. We will never forget,” a visibly emotional Kumar said.
It is said that Fernandes had virtually adopted Bihar as his second home and political 'karmabhoomi', representing its various constituencies in Parliament for a period spanning over four decades.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi also expressed sorrow over Fernandes’ demise and said, "A great fighter and symbol of anti-Congressism. Architect of alliance between BJP and Samata Party which led to fall of RJD rule in Bihar. As convenor of NDA played an important role in Ataljis government. Nobody can match George. RIP".
Fernandes was Kumar’s senior party colleague. It was in 1994 when both leaders decided to form Samata Party. Kumar later formed the Janata Dal (United) or the JD(U) in 2003. Fernandes merged his Samata Party in the JD(U) in the same year. Fernandes was also the convener of the NDA that formed the government at the Centre led by BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Sharad Yadav, former JD(U) leader, who had succeeded Fernandes as the NDA convenor, called the late leader a "father figure and role model" who belonged to the Janata Dal family of socialists but had friends in every political party. In alliance with the BJP, Fernandes fought and won the Nalanda Lok Sabha seat thrice in 1991, 1998 and 1999. He returned to Muzaffarpur in 2004 and sought re-election in 2009 as a candidate in virtual revolt against the wish of Nitish Kumar, who was then in saddle as the chief minister of the state.
(With PTI inputs)