The Death of Indian Socialism With a Lonely Man: History Will Always Remember You, George
A Minister who was stripped naked in an act of vengeance at an American airport as he unveiled the investment violations by Coca-Cola and IBM and ordered them out of India
There is so much to his life that one can write huge volumes on it, as today people talk about socialism and make parties in its name but these are just family-run enterprises. But there was a man who stood against the odds and believed in the cause of socialism, the true believer of what Lohia stood for. He was a socialist not just in the name but in deeds. He was already a mass leader when today’s many self-proclaimed socialist leaders were unaware of the mere idea of socialism. let's have a look at the life of this great comrade.George Fernandes was born on June 3, 1930 in Mangalore, Madras Presidency to a devout Catholic family and was sent to St Peter’s Seminary in 1946 to become a Catholic priest. While he was being trained, he saw the discrimination inside the church, as Native Christians were not treated well and left the church after giving a fight to the Seminarians for Bombay. He was disillusioned by the practices and the preachings of the church and that was the beginning of the life of a rebel.
Meeting The Guru
In 1949, he came to Bombay where the real struggle began, he had no money no prospects slept at the station bench but wanted to fight injustice and the change came when he met the great socialist Ram Manohar Lohia. Lohia taught him about the socialist ideas of justice and equality which were the same as that of communism but more practical and not radical.
He joined the socialist trade union and rose to prominence with a lot of hard work. He fought for the rights of people working in restaurants and hotels in those early times (by the way they still lack a worker’s union). He became a prominent union leader in 1950. He was attacked many a times by the goons hired by various capitalists and gave a fight in hand to hand combats and served many prison sentences. He actually fought the criminals in street fights in Bombay.
The Mainstream Politics
He served as a member of the Bombay municipal corporation from 1961 to 1968. In 1967 General Elections on the ticket of Samyukta Socialist Party, he defeated Sadashiv Patil of the Indian National Congress. It was a great setback for Congress as Patil was considered to be a powerful leader and once notoriously said that even God can not defeat him. After this great victory, George was given the name of, George the Giant Killer.
The Railway Strike Which put the Nation at Halt
In 1974 Fernandes as the president of All India Railwaymen’s Federation organised a strike and was joined by various other unions like of the taxi drivers and bus owners union against the working conditions of railway workers in those days. This strike was so powerful that it shook India as a nation and George was put behind bars. This act is considered to be an important one as it is one of the things that triggered Indira Gandhi to put National Emergency as the whole nation started to shake.
The National Emergency
On June 25, 1976 Indira Gandhi declared an emergency and like many other opposition leaders, George went underground to avoid an arrest. Police was not able to find him so they caught his brother Lawerence, who was beaten and tortured.
Fernandes became an open rebel and took arms and.wanted to blow government buildings with dynamite and was arrested on June 10, 1976. But because of the foreign pressure from Germany, Austria and Norway he was never charge-sheeted.
The Janta Party Government
All the prisoners were released in January 1977 after the end of National Emergency and elections were held in March. Congress lost badly and Morarji Desai Government was formed. Fernandes wan from the Muzaffarpur seat with a margin of over 3 lakh votes and became the cabinet minister of industries. The most notable thing is that he contested the elections while he was still in the Tihar jail.
As the union minister, he stood against Coca-Cola and IBM as he insisted that no foreigner should hold more than 40 per cent of the shares of any enterprise in India. This was the implementation of FERA, The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act.
He started the Kanti Thermal Power Station and Lijjat pad factory in his constituency.
The Samta Party
In 1994, George formed Samata Party after breaking from Janta Dal with his ally Nitish Kumar (present Chief Minister of Bihar) and that was the beginning of a new era for Bihar politics.
The NDA Government
In the NDA government from 1998 to 2004, he served as the Defence Minister. In 1998, India did the famous Pokharan nuclear tests, making India a nuclear-capable state. India reclaimed Kargil Hills from infiltrating Pakistani army and badly defeated them under his strong leadership.
The Last Years of His Carrier
NDA lost in 2009 and UPA came to power, George remained a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House, from 2009 to 2010. As he was denied a ticket from Samata Party in 2009 general elections and contested the election as an independent candidate but because of a twist of fate lost it.
The Last Days
He was not keeping well for ten years and suffered from various ailments and issues. Jaya Jaitly his longtime partner and his estranged wife Leila Kabir fought for his custody. He was bed-ridden and suffering from Alzheimer's. He passed away in the morning of January 29, 2019 at the age of 88.