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George Fernandes

Former Defence Minister and Anti-Emergency Crusader George Fernandes passed away in New Delhi this morning. He was 88. Mr Fernandes, who hailed from Mangaluru in Karnataka was ailing for a long time. One of the most prominent leaders of the socialist movement in the 1970s, George Fernandes was a senior Janata Dal leader before he founded the Samata Party. He was elected to the Lok Sabha 9 times and once to the Rajya Sabha. He also served as Union Minister for Railways, Communications and Industry. George Fernandes  was also a trade unionist, agriculturist, and journalist.

As President of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation he led the Railway strike involving 1.5 million workers in 1974, resulting in thousands being sent to jail. It was one of the events that led to the imposition of the Emergency in June 1975. Fernandes went underground during the Emergency, while challenging then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for imposing a state of emergency. In 1976 he was arrested and tried in the infamous Baroda dynamite case.

Here are 10 interesting facts about George Fernandes:
  1. Oldest of six children in Mangalorean Catholic family, quit school to become priest.
  2. Came to be known as “giant killer” when he defeated veteran Congress leader SK Patil in Mumbai during national polls in 1967.
  3. Organised a crippling 20-day railway strike in 1974 that brought the nation to a halt.
  4. Went into hiding as a Sikh man, with beard and turban, to avoid arrest during the 1975-77 Emergency.
  5. Was arrested and jailed for an alleged plot to smuggle dynamites and blow up railway tracks in protest against Emergency.
  6. Fought 1977 national election from jail and won Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
  7. Forced Coca Cola, IBM out for not following India’s rule for multinationals to dilute their stake.
  8. Drove the Konkan Railway project connecting Mangalore with Bombay.
  9. Oversaw 1999 Kargil war.
  10. Would do the dishes and wash clothes even as a union minister, known for his simplicity.


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