NEWS
14/01/2020 5:30 PM IST | Updated 14/01/2020 6:13 PM IST

How George Fernandes Won An Election From Jail

Sushma Swaraj's husband Swaraj Kaushal, a former MP and Supreme Court lawyer, filled the nomination forms for Fernandes in the first election post-Emergency and also helped plan the campaign.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
George Fernandes (second from right) with Atal Bihari Vajpayee (second from left),  Jayaprakash Narayan (centre) and other leaders in New Delhi on June 28, 1978.

NEW DELHI—George Fernandes was a man with many facets, a fact that is unsurprising to Indians of a certain generation as well as to those who are interested in post-independence politics in India.

He was the best known trade union leader from Mumbai, with a national profile, to resist Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, a man who could bring the financial capital to a halt with labour strikes, book lover, defence minister under a BJP-led government, among many other things. 

In a long Twitter thread over Monday and Tuesday, Swaraj Kaushal—Supreme Court lawyer and former Governor of Mizoram, who was married to late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj —shared some not-so-well-known aspects of Fernandes’ eventful and fascinating life. Specifically, Kaushal shared details of his own role as lawyer and parliamentarian during certain eventful incidents in the life of Fernandes. 

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While there are snippets and references to many incidents in Fernandes’ life in Kaushal’s thread, one involving his own role in Fernandes’ role also tells the story of one of the most historic Lok Sabha election campaigns in India’s election history—the 1977 Lok Sabha election held just after Indira Gandhi lifted the emergency. 

Apart from revealing how he helped Fernandes, who was contesting the election from jail, file his nomination papers, Kaushal also describes how the veteran trade union leader’s family, who were based in Bengaluru, campaigned for him in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur. Fernandes’s mother didn’t know Hindi, so, writes Kaushal, she was accompanied by a woman introduced as Fernandes’s sister. This woman, “a great orator in Hindi”, would speak at rallies, and ask people to vote for her brother, who was unfairly locked in jail. 

The meetings also included a cage which contained a man in handcuffs, to remind people that the candidate was still in jail. Fernandes, who had been arrested in June 1976 on charges of procuring dynamite sticks, won the election with a margin of over 3 lakh votes. 

A Times of India report says that Fernandes won from this Bihar town four more times, the last time in 2004.

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