Former Defence Minister George Fernandes will be cremated and buried in keeping with the wishes of the NDA leader who passed away on Tuesday, aged 88.
Social activist and former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly told reporters that the NDA veteran had earlier expressed his desire to be cremated but later said he wanted to be buried.
“He had earlier expressed his wish to be cremated but during his last days, he said he wanted to be buried. So we will cremate the body and bury the ashes to fulfil both his wishes,” Jaitly said.
She added that the last rites will be held on Wednesday after the arrival of Fernandes’ son, who resides in the United States.
“Right now, the body is being embalmed,” she said.
George Fernandes passed away early on Tuesday following a prolonged illness. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and had recently contracted swine flu.
Fernandes served as defence minister under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. An NDA loyalist, Fernandes had co-founded the Samata Party with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in 1994.
A nine-time Lok Sabha MP, Fernandes last served also a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar.
The Bihar government has thus announced a two-day state mourning following Fernandes’ demise.
Condoling his demise, 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.”
Born on 3 June 1930 in Mangaluru to a Mangalorean Catholic family, Fernandes became one of the tallest trade union leaders of the country. An avowed socialist, his first Lok Sabha win came on a Samyukta Socialist Party ticket in the 1967 general elections when he defeated Congress’ SK Patil in the Bombay South constituency.
As a Union Railway Minister in the VP Singh government, Fernandes was instrumental in the establishment of the Konkan Railway line link between Mangalore to Mumbai. As a Defence Minister, Fernandes backed the then NDA government’s decision to conduct nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1998.