Anew biography of one of India’s most firebrand union leaders and former Central minister George Fernandes will trace his journey from the streets of Bombay to the corridors of power in Delhi, announced the Penguin Random House India (PRHI) on Saturday.
”The Life and Times of George Fernandes”, written by Rahul Ramagundam, will be released under Penguin’s ‘Allen Lane’ imprint on July 25. The announcement of the ”first comprehensive biography” on the veteran socialist leader, widely considered an anti-Emergency hero, marks the 47th anniversary of the Emergency.
Fernandes, born on June 3, 1930, in Mangalore to a Christian family, burst into national limelight when as a trade unionist in Mumbai he organised a Railways strike in 1974 that brought the country to a standstill. He became the Railways minister in 1989 under V P Singh’s National Front coalition government, comprising mostly Left-leaning parties. Fernandes died in January 2019 at the age of 88 after a prolonged illness. ”For 12 long years, I have lived in George’s mind, explored his soul, interrogated his choices, journeyed with him through his highs and lows. Just as he did in pursuit of his politics, I have staked many things, family and friendships, job and joys, in writing this biography,” said Ramagundam, who has also authored ”Gandhi’s Khadi” and ”Including the Socially Excluded”.
”I have peered at microfilms of newspapers on dim-lit screens of time-worn machines. His private collection of more than a hundred thousand papers prodded a kind of historian’s greed in me. The delirious tedium of making a story out of those disparate papers strangely never tired me out,” he added.
Fernandes emerged as a key figure in the fight to restore democracy after the Emergency was imposed in 1975 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A photograph of Fernandes, with his shock of unkempt hair, raising a manacled hand in defiance remains one of the most enduring images of those times Fernandes later joined the BJP-led NDA government with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister in 1998 and 1999, in which he was appointed the defence minister. Under his stewardship, India fought the Kargil war in 1999. It was also during his tenure that India conducted a nuclear test at Pokhran in 1998.
According to the publishers, the biography is a must-have for not only those who are interested to know more about Fernandes but ”also those who are curious about history and read different accounts of the situations that changed the course of this nation”.
”George Fernandes’s life and politics fascinated people across the spectrum. His commitment to fight for the rights of the working-class people; his role during the Emergency; and his obsession to defeat the all-powerful Congress party from its dominant position in India’s politics finds a characteristic expression in this book,” said Premanka Goswami, associate publisher, PRHI.
‘The Life and Times of George Fernandes’ is currently available for pre-order on all major e-commerce websites.