One year before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the relationship between veteran Socialist George Fernandes and his protégé Nitish Kumar had hit rock bottom. The then JD(U) president Sharad Yadav had reportedly conveyed it to George that the de facto party chief Nitish was not keen to field him from Muzaffarpur, from where he was a then a sitting MP.
When George expressed his dismay, Sharad offered him a Rajya Sabha berth from Bihar. An anguished George then shot back: “Samajwadis don’t enter Parliament through Rajya Sabha.”
Refusing to be brow-beaten by Nitish, George told his supporters that the Bihar Chief Minister was spreading canards about his ill-health and was trying to marginalize the Socialist who built Samata Party brick by brick.
Denied Lok Sabha ticket from Muzaffarpur in 2009, from where he won in 1977 with record margin and became Industries Minister in Morarji Desai Government, George still hit the dusty bylanes in 2009 and contested as an Independent. The ailing Socialist, however, forfeited deposit in his bastion.
This was the same Muzaffarpur where, in 1977, posters of a handcuffed leader were splashed all over the streets of the north Bihar town. Behind bars on the charge of being involved in Baroda dynamite case, George Fernandes was contesting from there as a Janata Party nominee. Even though incarcerated, the firebrand trade union leader scored a landslide victory.
The veteran former JD (U) president, who graduated from Mangalore in Karnataka in 1945, and still has 10 acres of non-agricultural land in South Bangalore, made Bihar his second home from where he won eight times. Thrice from Nalanda and five times from Muzaffarpur.
Though Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar never showed any disrespect towards the veteran party founder, the relationship between the two nosedived when George was unceremoniously removed as the national president of the party in 2006. For public consumption, it was a democratically-held election in which Sharad Yadav pipped George in a direct contest for the top party post. Since then, the veteran Socialist had been sulking before he became bed-ridden after suffering from Alzheimer's.
The nine-term parliamentarian, who made his political debut by defeating Congress heavyweight SK Patil from Bombay in 1967, had not expected such shabby treatment from his erstwhile colleagues. But having lost the presidentship of the party, he was eventually stripped of the post of NDA convenor in 2008. Pushed to the corner, the ailing leader then decided to contest as an Independent from his bastion – Muzaffarpur.
But an emotional appeal could not cut much ice with the Muzaffarpur electorate who had sent him to Parliament earlier in 1977, 1980, 1989, 1991 and 2004. (He won from Nalanda in 1996, 1998 and 1999). In 2009, the septuagenarian Socialist was relegated to the fifth position after scoring just 22,804 votes. While his party, which he had assiduously cultivated, did exceptionally well by sweeping polls, George’s citadel had crumbled. Only he failed to read the writing on the wall.