Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Chief Ministers of different states among others on Tuesday expressed grief sorrow over the demise of Former Defence Minister George Fernandes. George Fernandes passed away on Tuesday at the age of 88 at his New Delhi residence. He was the Defence Minister in the Atal Bihari Vjapyee – led NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE [NDA] government when the Kargil war broke out between India and Pakistan in year 1999 and India conducted its nuclear tests at Pokhran range in Rajasthan in 1998. Besides that he also held several other ministerial portfolios including Industries, communications and Railways.
Fernandes was an Indian trade Unionist, Politician, Agriculturist, Journalist. He was the key member of JANATA DAL and was the founder of SAMATA Party. Arrested during the Emergency, George Fernandes was the Industries Minister in the first Non Congress government that came to power after Janata Party defeated Indira Gandhi – whom George once called a “Congenital Liar”. Fernandes a veteran parliamentarian was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1967 when he defeated giant S.K Patil of Indian National Congress [INC] from South Bombay constituency. And after that he didn’t look back. He went on to become the member of Lok -Sabha for Nine Terms between 1967 and 2004.
George a native of Mangalore went to Bangalore in 1946 to become a priest. But at the age of 19 he left from there to sheer frustration because he was appalled that rectors ate better food and sat on higher tables than the seminarians. After leaving the seminary he left for Bombay in year 1949 where he joined the trade union movement later. He organized many strikes and bandh’s in Bombay in the 1950 & 1960’s while working with the Indian Railways. During the starting days of Emergency he went underground but in year 1976 he was arrested and tried in Infamous Baroda Dynamite Case. In year 1977 after the emergency had been lifted George Fernandes won the Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar in absentia and after was appointed Industries Minister. During his tenure as Union Industries Minister he clashed with American Multinational Companies like IBM and COCA-COLA insisting them to implement Foreign Exchange Regulation Act [FERA] or to leave the country due to investment violations. During his stint as the Railway Minister from 1989-1990 in V.P Singh’s Janata Dal Government he was the main driving force behind the KONKAN RAILWAYS. Fernandes served as the Defence Minister of India in both the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Led NDA govt. During his tenure as the Defence Minister the Kargil war over Kashmir broke out between arch-rivals INDIA and PAKISTAN in 1999. Inability of Indian intelligence agencies and Military agencies to detect the In-filtration on early received criticism both by opposition and national media. But George Fernandes refused to acknowledge the failure of agencies. George Fernandes himself being the staunch supporter of Nuclear-Disarmament conducted five nuclear tests at the Pokhran Range in Rajasthan. He strongly and openly endorsed the NDA government’s decision to test the nuclear bombs.
George Fernandes quit the Defence Ministry in year 2001 after Tehelka Defence Scandal Broke out. But he was reappointed to the post later that year. He was known for a overseeing a huge increase in India’s Defence budget as compared to the allocations by the previous Government’s. He was also known for forcing ministry bureaucrats to visit desert posts in Rajasthan when it would hit 50 degrees, Kashmir when it would be freezing and the North East when it would been raining cats and dogs. His peers and opponents say what set George Fernandes apart was his desire to understand the Jawan more and more.
After the NDA government lost power in 2004 he was locked in a bitter party rivalry with his old time friend SAMATA PARTY Co- Founder Nitish Kumar. In year 2009 he was denied ticket on health grounds by the Janata Dal (United) and he contested as an independent candidate but lost. In the same year July 2009, Fernandes filed his nomination as an independent candidate for the mid-term poll being held for the Rajya Sabha seat vacated by the Janata Dal United President Sharad Yadav. No candidate was fielded against him which led to his being elected unopposed to Rajya Sabha.
During his last days of life he was suffering from Swine Flu and he died on 29th January 29, 2019 at his residence in New Delhi. He was 88.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his message to the departed soul said that; ‘He was frank and fearless’, ‘forthright and farsighted’ and represented the best of India’s political Leadership’.