Veteran socialist George Fernandes dies at 88

Former defence minister George Fernandes died on Tuesday morning in Delhi. He was 88 years old. For the last several years he was not well and confining to home. Born on June 3, 1930 in Mangalore, George Fernandes was at the age of 16 sent to Bangalore to train as a priest, but his calling was different. He moved to Bombay in 1949 and got involved in the socialist trade union movement. Known to be a firebrand unionist and a fiery orator, he organised many strikes and bandhs there. He organised many strikes and bandhs in Bombay in the 1950s and 1960s while working with the Indian Railways.

He has hit the national fame by defeating Congress veteran S K Patil in 1967 Lok Sabha polls from South Bombay constituency. Later he became popular organising 1974 Railway strike as President of the All India Rialwaymen’s Federation. During emergency of 1975, he went underground and challenged Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and arrested in 1976. He was tried in infamous Baroda dynamite case. After lifting of emergency, he ad won from Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar in absentia from jail.

He was also key player in formation of Janata Party and became Industries Minister in Morarji Desai cabient. During this period, he ordered American multinationals IBM and Coca-Cola to leave the country, due to investment violations. He was the driving force behind the Konkan Railway project during his tenure as railway minister from 1989 to 1990.. He was a defence minister in Vajpayee government, when the Kargil war broke out between India and Pakistan and also when India conducted nuclear test Pokhran.

A veteran socialist, Fernandes has been dogged by various controversies, including the Barak Missile scandal and the Tehelka affair. He won nine Lok Sabha elections from 1967 to 2004.

 

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