George Fernandes, former Defence Minister of India under National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, was a fearless leader who had organised the famous All India Railway Strike of 1974 to raise the grievances of railway workers. The discontent among the railway workers had been simmering for over 2 decades until it boiled over in 1974. When Mr Fernandes took on the mighty Indira Gandhi government, he was expectedly arrested.
George Fernandes in 1975 Source: India Today
However, as a Defence Minister, George Fernandes, not only oversaw the Pokhran nuclear tests, but also the Kargil War in which India went on to crush the militants sent by Pakistan.
It was for the first time that people of India saw blitzkrieg of Indian army live on their television sets seated in their homes. The jubilant people appreciated the then government for not only defeating Pakistan but also teaching the latter a lesson in the language that it understood.
However, a theory was mischievously floated from the Congress stables in order to malign the image of the then NDA government. A word ‘Coffingate’ was coined to charge the government alleging why it had purchased the coffins to carry the mortal remains of martyrs (actually the aluminium caskets and not coffin) at a higher price than what should have been, as subsequently pointed out by the CAG. However it must be noted that the CAG report was misquoted.
But Congress then had been quick to term the then Defence Minister George Fernandes ‘Kafan Chor’ (something similar to their current slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor’) and asked for the latter’s resignation. It is also said that he was hounded for being critical of Sonia Gandhi, something that Congress strongly detests.
According to an article in Indian Express, Sonia Gandhi, the then Congress President, had led the charge against the NDA and shouted ‘Kafan Chor’ every time Fernandes got up to speak. Nobody had cared to see the official documents put forth by Mr Fernandes in his defence.
However, Supreme Court of India gave the clean chit to the NDA government and had found nothing called ‘Coffingate’. More surprisingly, the CBI had absolved George Fernandes not finding him guilty under none other than the UPA dispensation itself.
But before George Fernandes could be proven innocent by the highest court of the country, damage to the reputation of the then NDA government and Fernandes himself was already done – thanks to the Congress Party’s fake offensive. NDA I, otherwise noteworthy for putting India on a high growth trajectory of 8 percent, was scarred by the false corruption allegations and lost the elections later in 2004.
The same strategy has been adopted by the Congress in the case of Rafale deal. The purported efforts towards painting a scam out of Rafale deal are on full swing, especially from the current Congress President Rahul Gandhi. We already know how Rahul Gandhi has called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a chor in his imaginary Rafale scam a number of times. This is despite the Supreme Court having already cleared the said deal.
It is now for the people of this country to decide whether to commit the same mistake that they had committed in 2004, or take a more enlightened stance.