George Fernandes was, for 60 years, one of the most visible socialist politicians in India. A trade union representative, he came to international fame in the 1974 when he organised the All India Railway Strike, grounding the country to a halt. The strike led to Indira Gandhi calling a national state of emergency the following year and putting a warrant out for Fernandes’ arrest, which was finally served in 1976 when he was charged with smuggling dynamite.
He never stood trial, as Gandhi’s government fell soon after, and he began a career in elected politics: first as minister for industries, where he kicked IBM and Coca-Cola out of India over alleged investment opportunities. He went on to serve as India’s transport minister and defence minister in the early 2000s, overseeing the country’s nuclear testing programme – a stunning reverse on his original anti-nuke politics. Still, a socialist who was in constant contact with Henry Kissinger during the 1970s is clearly a man of flexible ethical guidelines. Fernandes now becomes, I believe, the first ever DDP pick to die of swine flu.