He was elected to the Lok Sabha 9 times and once to the Rajya Sabha. He also served as Union Minister for Railways, Communications and Industry. George Fernandes was also a trade unionist, agriculturist, and journalist.
He became famous after he defeated Congress veteran SK Patil in the latter’s bastion in Mumbai in the 1967 Lok Sabha elections. In 1977, after the Emergency was lifted, Fernandes won the Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar in absentia and was appointed as Union Minister for Industries.
As President of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation he led the Railway strike involving 1.5 million workers in 1974, resulting in thousands being sent to jail. It was one of the events that led to the imposition of the Emergency in June 1975. Fernandes went underground during the Emergency, while challenging then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for imposing a state of emergency. In 1976 he was arrested and tried in the infamous Baroda dynamite case.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed sadness on the passing away of former Defence Minister George Fernandes. In a tweet, PM Modi said, George Sahab represented the best of India’s political leadership. He said, frank and fearless, forthright and farsighted, George Fernandes made a valuable contribution to the country and he was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised.
The Prime Minister said, when people think of George Fernandes, they remember most notably the fiery trade union leader who fought for justice, the leader who could humble the mightiest of politicians at the hustings, a visionary Railway Minister and a great Defence Minister who made India safe and strong. PM Modi said, during his long years in public life, George Sahab never deviated from his political ideology and he resisted the emergency tooth and nail. He said, the simplicity and humility of the great leader were noteworthy. PM Modi said, his thoughts are with the family, friends of George Fernandes and lakhs of people grieving.
President Ram Nath Kovind has expressed grief on the passing away of George Fernandes. In a tweet, he said, George Fernandes served India in many capacities, including as Defence Minister and he epitomised simple living and high thinking. The President said, George Fernandes was a champion of democracy, during the Emergency and beyond. He said, the nation will miss him.