Former Defence Minister George Fernandes died in Delhi on Tuesday. He was 88.

Fernandes had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and recently contracted swine flu, reported PTI. According to The News Minute, a family member confirmed his death.

Fernandes was a prominent member of the Janata Party and founder of the Samata Party. He was a minister in several cabinets and had served as the defence minister between 1998 and 2004. During his tenure, India conducted nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1998 and went to war with Pakistan in Kargil in 1999.

Fernandes had also found himself in the midst of several controversies, such as the 2002 coffin scam and the Barak missile scandal in 2006.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Fernandes represented the best of India’s political leadership. “Frank and fearless, forthright and farsighted, he made a valuable contribution to our country,” Modi tweeted. “He was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised.”

Modi said Fernandes never deviated from his political ideology and “resisted the Emergency tooth and nail”. “...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,” he said.