Pune remembers George Fernandes
Whenever Fernandes was in the city, he would walk around the peth areas, says Dr Kumar SaptarshiUpdated: Jan 30, 2019 14:55 IST
George Fernandes, the leader known to be fearless, farsighted and the greatest crowd mobiliser after Mahatma Gandhi is now silent, said Dr Kumar Saptarshi. Saptarshi knew the former defence minister, who passed away at the age of 88 in Delhi on Tuesday morning, for the past 40 years in personal and political capacity as his close aid.
Fernandes, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, was bedridden for the past eight years. While his career as a fiery trade union leader began in Mumbai, the socialist always had a special affinity with Pune.
“Whenever Fernandes was in the city, he would walk around the peth areas, as that gave him an opportunity to interact with his supporters. He would never miss going to Nagpur Khanawal restaurant located in Sadhashiv peth. Despite holding senior positions in the government, Fernandes refrained from accepting security cover,” said Dr Saptarshi, chairman, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.
According to Dr Saptarshi, in 1977, after the Emergency was lifted, Fernandes won the Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar while he was still in jail. The Janata Party and its allies came to power, headed by Morarji Desai, who became the first non-Congress prime minister. Fernandes was appointed as union minister for industries in the Desai government.
During his tenure as union minister, Fernandes ordered American multinationals International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and Coca-Cola to leave the country over alleged investment violations. He was the driving force behind the Konkan railway project during his tenure as railway minister from 1989 to 1990, he said.
Following the Kargil War, allegations surfaced regarding a scam in procurement of coffins, forcing Fernandes, the then defence minister, to step down in 2004.
The last rites of the former parliamentarian will be performed in New Delhi on January 30. News agency ANI quoted former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, who worked closely with the former defence minister, saying, “Last rites of George Fernandes to be held tomorrow (January 30) after the arrival of his son. Right now, the body is being embalmed.”