‘Fernandes had plans to bomb Vidhana Soudha’

‘Fernandes had plans to bomb Vidhana Soudha’

While in hiding during the emergency, Fernandes arranged explosives to overthrow the Indira Gandhi regime, said Kalappa

Janata Party senior leaders (from left) Madhu Dandavate, Chandrashekhar, George Fernandes and Ramakrishna Hegde at party meeting in Bangalore. (DH File Photo)

George Fernandes had plans to blow up the Vidhana Soudha during the Emergency, L Kalappa, one of Fernandes’ close aides told DH in an exclusive interview.

Kalappa, from Yelahanka, is a trade union leader of the Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat. He idolised Fernandes and saw him as a role model following in his footsteps. Both extensively wrote letters to each other. 

While in hiding during the emergency, Fernandes arranged explosives to overthrow the Indira Gandhi regime, said Kalappa.

“Fernandes was a nightmare to Indira Gandhi. She wanted him behind the bars as he could mobilise people against emergency. Fernandes went underground for nearly 15 months, out of the 21 months of emergency, to be arrested in 1976 in the Baroda dynamite case,” recollected Kalappa.

According to Kalappa, four days before emergency was declared, they were on a strike. Fernandes’s brother, Michael, was leading the strike in Bangalore. Soon after emergency was imposed on June 25, 1975, they saw newspaper editorials left blank. There was total surveillance on Fernandes’s family.

Back then, Fernandes would only contact his brother Lawrence, said Kalappa, adding that there was constant state monitoring of Fernandes’s activities and movement. 

After seeing the brutality of emergency, Fernandes gathered crude bombs and dynamites to blow up public places -- even the Vidhana Soudha and other vital installations without causing casualties. His motive was to send a strong message to Indira Gandhi, recalled Kalappa.

Kalappa was then in the Union of Karnataka Dairy Development Corporation which is now called the Karnataka Milk Federation.

Fernandes’s letters to Kalappa mostly outlined how to win the confidence of workers and how to strengthen the union.

To one of Kalappa’s letters in 1982, Fernandes replied: “I am surprised to hear that the union now has only 60 members. Does it not become your responsibility to expand the membership?”

In reply to Kalappa’s letter in 1987, Fernandes wrote: “Sometimes we have to join hands with people whom we do not like, but our aim is to reach our destination.”

Fernandes applied the same ideal in politics and joined hands with coalition governments.

“In 1984, we wanted him to contest from Bengaluru North and make it his political base, but he lost to the Congress’s C K Jaffer Sharief. People from Bihar came and took him back to Bihar and made him contest from Muzaffarpur in 1989, which he won again,” the trade union leader recalled. 

“He introduced us to the concept of bandh from Mumbai in 1960s. Today, hundreds of trade unions in the country have lost a mentor,” Kalappa added.