George Fernades, a firebrand politician who defied Indira Gandhi’s emergency, humbled himself before then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha in his capacity as trouble-shooter for A B Vajapayee
The genteel leader that he was, Vajpayee himself had gone on record that Jayalalitha gave him sleepless nights during the brief period she supported his first NDA Government during 1998-99 until she pulled the plug after he refused to dilute corruption cases against her.
Fernandes had several meetings with Jayalalitha at her posh Poes Garden residence, some time catching even flights from Delhi. At times, she kept him waiting. At other times, when she was able to have her way with the Vajpayee Government, she treated him to lunch and dinner.
In sharp contrast, four- time DMK Chief Minister M Karunanidhi gave Fernandes and others who resisted the emergency refuge in Tamil Nadu. Fernandes, who was implicated in the Baroda dynamite case, was underground.
His younger brother, who was in Bengaluru, was arrested by the Congress Government in Karnataka, and tortured. The police eventually hunted down Fernandes and he was lodged in Samastipur jail in Bihar. When Indira Gandhi lifted the emergency and announced elections in 1977, he contested from jail and won by a record margin.
Fernandes, who became famous after he led the railway strike in 1974, was Railway Minister in the V P Singh Government. Fernandes kept an open house in New Delhi for all radicals, including human rights activist.
At the fag end his life, he was kept away from public life as he was striken by Alzheimer’s. A fighter for all his life, he went into second childhood till he breathed his last at the age of 88.