New Delhi: George Mathew Fernandes, former defence minister in the Vajpayee government breathed his last today in New Delhi at 7 AM. He was 88 years old. He was the defence minister between 1998 and 2004.

Reports state that Fernandes who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, in the last few days, was also ill with the flu.

The former defence minister was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1967 and last served in parliament as a Rajya Sabha MP between August 2009 and July 2010.

George Fernandes was known as the civil rights activist and anti-Emergency crusader. 

He hailed from Mangaluru and was the founder of the Samata Party. He also served as a Union Minister in the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai between 1977 and 1980.

Fernandes stepped down as the defence minister in 2004 after his name was heard in the ‘coffingate’ scandal. He was later given a clean chit by two commissions of inquiry.