George Fernandes: A die-hard socialist icon, who later befriended right wing BJP

The time-tested maxim that the beginning never knows the end aptly applies to the life and political career of socialist icon of contemporary setting – the Late George Fernandes.

His detractors have used all kinds of phrases for him and even called him an ‘anarchist’ and ‘cantankerous’.

Jailed during Emergency, Fernandes was a native of Mangalore, but his political engagements were in Mumbai during initial days and later in Bihar.

In 2002, when politics revolved around post-Godhra riots, Fernandes’ was the most vocal voice defending the government in Gujarat.

“This man will show the light to Hindutva politics,” Fernandes reportedly had told a group of top BJP leaders

when there was vocal demand for the ouster of Mr Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister.

Fernandes was sent to Bangalore in 1946 to be trained as a priest. Many years later, Fernandes said, “When I joined the socialists brigade, my father said I wanted my son to Serve the God, instead he (George) chose to join the devils”.

In 1949, he had moved to ‘Bombay’ of yesteryear’s glory where he joined the socialist trade union movement.

Becoming a trade union leader, Fernandes organised many strikes and bandhs in Bombay in the 1950s and 1960s while working with the Indian Railways.

He shot into political limelight at the national level when he defeated Congress stalwart S K Patil in the 1967 parliamentary elections from the South Bombay.

He had organised the 1974 Railway strike along with fellow compatriot Sharad Rao and soon came to be known as ‘strike expert’. His stint as President of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation is still the talk of the town in Mumbai and among the railway workers.

Fernandes went underground during the Emergency era of 1975, while challenging Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for imposing a state of emergency, but in 1976, he was arrested and tried in the infamous Baroda dynamite case. (UNI)