In pics: Life and times of former defence minister George Fernandes

Updated: Jan 29, 2019, 06:08 PM(IST)

A look at the life and times of George Fernandes, a socialist to the core and one of the most popular defence ministers of India.

'From priest to trade union leader'

George Fernandes was born in Mangaluru in 1930. To be trained as a priest, he was sent to Bangalore in 1946 but he moved to Bombay where he joined the socialist trade union movement and became a trade union leader.

He held several ministerial portfolios including railways, defence, communications and industry in his political career.


'Known for simplistic lifestyle'

George Fernandes was known for his simplistic lifestyle and always clad in a kurta-pyjama.

Fernandes had been in public life for nearly six decades and had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for a long time and was down with swine flu for the last few days as well.

He breathed his last on Tuesday morning.


Rise of George Fernandes

The Emergency led to the emergence of George Fernandes who became a staunch opponent of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the days of Emergency in the country. 

Ram Vilas Paswan, Fernandes' colleague had said that his commitment to democracy and willingness to go to any length to propagate his cause was an inspiration to him and many others during the Emergency.



'George the Giant Killer'

George Fernandes won his first Lok Sabha election in 1967 and the flamboyant politician was offered a ticket by the Samyukta Socialist Party to contest the general elections.

He stood against the veteran Congress leader SK Patil and defeated the Congress strongman in his Bombay South parliamentary constituency.

After his victory, he earned the nickname 'George the Giant Killer'.



Railway strike in 1974

Fernandes is also remembered for calling the railway strike in May 1974, crippling nation for 20-days.

He was jailed during the Emergency and charged with conspiring to blow up railway tracks. 



Drove out Coca Cola

He was appointed the industries minister in the Janata Party government.

His tenure was marked with multinational firms Coca Cola and IBM shutting down their Indian operations as he pushed hard government regulations.


Nuclear test in Pokhran

He became the defence minister in the Vajpayee government and it was under his tenure that the nuclear test in Pokhran was conducted in 1998 and India fought the Kargil war against Pakistan in 1999. 


Boosted morale of armed forces

During the troop mobilisation all along the Pakistan border in the aftermath of a terror attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001, Fernandes travelled to several forward locations to boost the morale of the armed forces.

He fought a lonely battle from Muzaffarpur in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls after his party JD(U) denied him a ticket as Alzheimer's hit him.


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