George Fernandes
Snapshot
  • On his 87 birth anniversary today (3 June), we take a look at how George Fernandes was viciously attacked for being an outspoken opponent of Sonia Gandhi.

In 2001, when the Vajpayee-led NDA was in power at the Centre, the country was rocked by what came to be called “Coffingate” by the media. There were allegations of financial irregularities in the purchase of coffins–in actuality, they were not coffins but aluminium caskets (but the media decided that ‘coffin’ sounds better)–in the wake of the Kargil conflict in 1999.

The Congress wasted no time in terming the then Defence Minister George Fernandes as ‘kafan-chor’ and demanded his resignation. Multiple sittings of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha fell victim to the Congress agitation.

Recently, Jaya Jaitly, former President of the Samata Party wrote an article in a daily which seems to expose the shallowness of the Congress’ charges and the sinister objectives behind them. Swarajya investigates.

The Vicious Attacks On George Fernandes

That the Congress is single-minded in its pursuit to put down anyone who speaks against the Gandhis is not news for anyone. However, what is unfortunate, and even depressing, is the collective amnesia about just how vicious they have been in this process.

Nothing, except for the Gandhis, is sacred for the party.

Perhaps, no example can explain this trait of the Congress better than the so-called ‘Coffingate’.

Why George Fernandes?

Because Fernandes was the most outspoken opponent of Sonia Gandhi. No other leader, of any party, including the BJP, has been as outspoken and as resolute in his/her opposition to Sonia Gandhi as Fernandes. His aversion to the Congress president can be gauged through the clip below:

But what about the scam?

A CBI enquiry into the issue did not find anything against Fernandes, and he was left out of the chargesheet filed by the CBI. Of course, one would say that in our system, it is unlikely that a ‘caged parrot’ like the CBI would find anything against a Union minister. That statement would, of course, hold true in many instances.

Except that in the case of George Fernandes, the chargesheet was filed in 2009, when the UPA, with Sonia Gandhi as its all-powerful chairperson, was in power. However, true to form, the silence of the Congress on Fernandes’ name being left out, was as deafening as its calls for his resignation eight years earlier in 2001. The media, too, stuck to the script. Vociferous and sensationalist in questioning Fernandes in 2001; passive in its coverage in 2009.

What Jaitly points out

According to Jaitly, what was billed as a scam, was in fact, a typographical error by a mid-level defence ministry official. And, anyway, files of purchases of less than Rs 5 crore did not come to the defence minister. So retargeting Fernandes was pure vendetta.

From Jaitly’s arguments, one can deduce that when it comes to going after those who dare speak against Sonia Gandhi, the Congress doesn’t respect facts, or rationale, or procedures, or institutions, and in this case, even the efforts and sacrifices to protect the integrity of the country.

The country was grateful to the army for the valour it displayed in the Kargil conflict. The role of the political leadership was also being appreciated. In any case, the charge of corruption in the purchase of caskets for martyrs is a diabolic one and, in any other democracy, the opposition would first build a water-tight case before alleging something as grave as this. If proven wrong, the opposition leader would surely have to issue an apology and resign from all posts.

Alas, not in India. Here, even after hurling the most sinister allegations at Fernandes and being proven wrong about it, Sonia Gandhi is still the president of the Congress and the leader of the UPA.

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