He fought relentlessly with his old kurta-pyjamas, leather slippers which are not of any popiular brand, hair which was hardly combed and with out of fashion glasses. No one thought that this Mangalorean would take India by storm.
Krishna Menon Marg in Delhi will never forget Bungalow Number 3 because a very prominent person was residing in that bungalow without any security. Forget security guards, it didn’t even have gates. He could have been attacked by rebels from throughout the world by he didn’t care. The person leaving in this bungalow was none other than the then Defence Minister of India, George Fernandes. Whoever hear this will be astonished; how can a defence minister be without any security guards?
He was the man who created sensation in India in 1977. Fernandes fought the 1977 Lok Sabha election from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur while he was still in jail as an undertrial in the Baroda Dynamite Case. He swept the polls with his supporters campaigning with his photo. After coming to power, Janata Party withdrew the case in 1977 and all the accused were released. He created a world record by winning by a margin of 3,00,000 votes. This was the sign that Indira Gandhi was completely rejected by the Indians.
George Mathew Fernandes was born on June 3, 1930 in an orthodox catholic family. He landed in Bangalore at the age of 16 to become a priest but when he was 19, decided to go to Mumbai. At that point of time even he would not have thought that his life will have a turning point from here.
In Mumbai he did odd jobs and slept in beaches and streets of Mumbai. This struggle helped him to associate with various trade unions. Soon he was popular among the working class as he led several labour moments.
Later he was nominated from Samyuktha Socialist Party from South Bombay constituency in 1967 and emerged as a giant killer. Yes, he defeated S K Patil from the Congress party. This was a huge win and he started to gain fame.
How he stunned Indira Gandhi?
Those were the days when none were able to face Indira Gandhi but a man from a humble background left her nowhere. He led the nation wide railway strike in 1974 which lasted for mere 3 weeks but was enough to completely disturb the peace of Indira Gandhi. Since then, George Fernandes became a national figure.
Later this fire kept burning as another great leader Jai Prakash Narayan started to haunt Indira Gandhi and as she was unable to handle this, she imposed emergency in 1975.
How George Fernandes wasn’t deterred by Indira’s emergency?
During the days when Congress curtailed the human rights, he decided to follow the footsteps of Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekar Azad. He along with his friends decided to blow a government office and started to procure dynamites. But their intension was to harm none.
After remaining in disguise and operating out of hideouts, Fernandes and his other colleagues were arrested from St Paul’s Church in Kolkata. He was charged with Baroda Dynamite case and was sent to Delhi’s Tihar Central Jail.
Before getting arrested, George would wear a Bihari dhoti and a keep a gamcha on his shoulder. It is also said that George Fernandes had assumed the guise of a Sikh man to evade arrest during Emergency days and recited the Gita to inmates while being imprisoned in Tihar Jail. George during emergenvcy not only went underground but continued to operate against the Indira Gandhi’s injustice.
George was one of the bravest and the greatest fighters for civil rights during the “emergency era”.
Minister in Central government:
After the fall of Indira Gandhi’s government, George Fernandes got an opportunity to serve the people as an industry Minister under the Prime Ministership of Morarji Desai. After that he gave severe blow to Coca-cola and IBM. Yes, these companies were asked to leave the country because of investment violations.
Railway Ministry was offered to George under V.P Singh in 1989 and George was the driving force behind Konkan Railway.
Due to infighting among the merged parties, the Janata Government could not remain in power for the full term. Charan Singh, who was the Deputy Prime Minister, was lured by Congress to get the Prime Minister’s post. He broke away from Janata Party with 64 members of erstwhile Lok Dal party, along with Raj Narain. Meanwhile, Bharatiy Jan Sangh also withdrew support to Morarji Government and broke away from Janata Party, to form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Morarji Desai lost the confidence vote in the Lok Sabha and resigned from Prime Ministership.
Charan Singh was sworn in as 5th Prime Minister on 28th July 1979 with the promised outside support of Indira Gandhi. Charan Singh with his 64 members formed the Government. After the formation of the Government, but before the Confidence motion in Lok Sabha, Congress withdrew the support. Hence, Charan Singh resigned the PM’s post. President of India dissolved the Lok Sabha and ordered fresh elections.
Association with Atal Ji’s government:
When NDA came to power in 1998, George Fernandes became the defence Minister. He was also the convenor of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). During his tenure, in 1998 the nuclear tests at Pokhran was conducted and the Kargil war was fought in 1999.
His name was even heard in several controversies too. His influences started to fade away after the NDA government lost in 2004 elections.
George is a master of 10 languages namely Tulu, Konkani, English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Malayalam and Latin. Fernandes is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Fernandes had married Leila Kabir, the daughter of educationist and former Union minister Humayun Kabir. They began dating and were married on 21 July 1971. They have a son, Sean Fernandes, who is an investment banker based in New York. Fernandes and Kabir separated in the mid-1980s. Jaya Jaitly was Fernandes’ companion since 1984. But recently Leila Kabir returned back to George with her son Sean.
A fighter who fought for justice is now 87 years old