New Delhi: George Fernandes was a political stalwart and one of the most firebrand union leaders in the country, but his heart melted in front of dogs, many of whom gave him company even in times of his deteriorating health.
His close aide Jaya Jaitly Tuesday said Fernandes was so fond of dogs he would carry "treats in his pockets" for them. "He loved pets, especially dogs and he had many of them who gave him company," she said. However, they have all died, Jaitly added.
The former defence minister, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disorder, died on Tuesday at his residence in New Delhi's upscale Panchsheel Park after prolonged illness.
The debilitating disease had left him with no ability to understand what was happening around him. For close to a decade he faded from public memory as his family members cared for him at home.
"People know him as a firebrand union leader and for his fiery oratory skills, but inside his heart he also had feelings for pet dogs and loved them a lot. In fact, every time he would fly in an airline, the staff would give him chocolates and he would keep them in his pockets for pet dogs," Jaitly said.
He would give these treats to either his own pet dogs or those at (former prime minister) V P Singh's house, he loved dogs so much, Fernandes' close aid recalled.
A pall of gloom has descended over his residence where mourners have joined in to express condolences to the family. "The pets were all gone and now he's gone too," Jaitly said.
She hailed Fernandes as a "fearless leader" who was always full of energy and did "politics for the people", earning him admirers from Delhi to Bihar.
Many of his admirers took to Twitter and Facebook to share his legacy and pay respects to the former defence minister, with some also sharing pictures of him in company of his pets.