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George Fernandes, the 'Giant Slayer', Who Defeated 'Bombay's Uncrowned King' SK Patil

The NCP leader recollected his association with George Fernandez from the 1960s, and spoke elaborately about how the Labour leader came to be known as the 'giant slayer'.

Vinaya Deshpande | CNN-News18

Updated:January 30, 2019, 2:11 PM IST
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George Fernandes, the 'Giant Slayer', Who Defeated 'Bombay's Uncrowned King' SK Patil
File photo of former defence minister George Fernandes.
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Mumbai: Paying tributes to George Fernandes, who passed away on Tuesday morning, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said that the country may have lost a fighter, a very capable administrator, but "I have lost a very good friend".

"The country has lost a fighter, a very capable administrator, and a person who was committed to the downtrodden sections of the society. I have lost a very good friend," he told CNN-News18.

The NCP leader recollected his association with George Fernandez from the 1960s, and spoke elaborately about how the Labour leader came to be known as the 'giant slayer'. He also recalled the days when he, Fernandez and Balasaheb Thackeray worked together to solve the textile mill issue ailing the then 'Bombay'.

Calling Fernandez a great orator, he said his fluency in several languages helped him bond with people. "He knew Konkani, Marathi, Hindi, English, Kannada. He was a very good person, and a confident administrator," he said.

"I recollect, George came to Mumbai in the 60s, and he started his career as a party worker in the trade union section. Because of hard work, he succeeded to win over the support of Mumbai municipal corporation workers. Even today, the Hind Mazdoor sabha, which is a powerful labour organisation, which is also consists of Mumbai corporation's staff, under his guidance, everybody was working."

Recalling the first time Fernandez fought the Lok Sabha elections and defeated stalwart leader S K Patil, he said, "I recollect, in 1962, in those days, Bombay city was politically controlled by S K Patil. S K Patil was a great leader, and was a very powerful person in the city of Bombay. George Fernandez decided to contest elections, and practically nobody took him seriously. The stature of Patil in Bombay was so powerful and effective that nobody was ready to believe that anybody could defeat him. I really recollect how he started his campaign. In his campaign, he put out posters across the city. The posters had only one line — 'you can defeat S K Patil.' That single statement created confidence in the minds of voters and ultimately, in the elections, George succeeded in defeating S K Patil. The whole country was surprised."

Talking of Fernandes' days as a parliamentarian, Pawar said, "When he entered the Parliament, he proved himself an effective parliamentarian. There was a massive railway protest. And he succeeded because of his strong presence in the railway workers."

After Emergency, when he was a part of the government, the NCP supremo recalled that his administrative skills shone at that time.

"During Emergency, he was in jail. After that, we have seen his different angle. He proved himself an effective administrator and effective parliamentarian. George visited Siachin more than once, when he was the defence minister after me. He gave confidence to the Indian soldiers who were working there in -20 degrees, and sending information. Unfortunately, he wasn't well for the last 15 years. Today, he is no more with us. But we have missed a very good administrator, orator, leader, a very good personal friend."
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