In 1967, I was in Bombay working as a journalist when the corruption of the Congress party was on the rise and anti-Congress sentiments had already set in. George Fernandes stood against Congress strongman S.K. Patil from South Bombay Constituency in the 1967 Parliamentary elections and we worked for George. I, along with a large number of Kannada-speaking people in the Prarthana Samaj area went door-to-door canvassing for George Fernandes. We also took our Marathi colleagues to canvass in Maharashtrian homes as we could not speak Marathi. In the end, George defeated S.K. Patil. Our hard work had paid off.
Mysuru: Everyone called Sadashiv Kanoji Patil (S.K. Patil) the ‘uncrowned king of Bombay.’ Sadoba Patil, as he was popularly known, represented Bombay South in the Lok Sabha for three terms and was considered invincible in the constituency. So the ‘king’ was not perturbed when the combined Opposition put up a then little-known Mangalore-born trade unionist George Fernandes of the Samyuktha Socialist Party as its candidate in the 1967 general election.
George, only 37 then, campaigned tirelessly, covering large swathes of the constituency with his workers. And when the results were declared, the unthinkable had happened. George had unseated the ‘king.’ That was how Fernandes got his nickname, ‘George the Giant Killer’ and as for S.K. Patil, the shock defeat heralded the end of his political career.
George fought the 1977 Lok Sabha elections from jail as he was imprisoned by the Indira Gandhi government in the Baroda Dynamite Case. The CBI had then charged George and 24 others of smuggling dynamite to blow up government establishments and railway tracks in protest against state of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi from 1975 to 1977.
George, who contested on a Bharatiya Lok Dal ticket from Muzaffarpur in Bihar, defeated Nitishwar Prasad of Congress by more than 3 lakh votes. What clicked for George is the photo taken of him being shifted from Tihar Jail to Tis Hazari Court with handcuffs inside the court premises. His supporters used the tell-all photograph to campaign for George that ultimately ensured his massive victory.
Now that the Karnataka government has handed over the alleged KHB scam to the ACB and if the ACB sleuths arrest Chamundeshwari MLA G.T. Devegowda and send him to jail, his supporters will, in all probability, make this an election issue. Using the opportunity, his supporters might resort to aggressive campaigning like George’s supporters did in 1977 Lok Sabha Elections and might ensure his victory.
If at all Devegowda wins in Chamundeshwari, he will certainly enter the pages of history as the “Giant Killer of Karnataka” for defeating Siddharamaiah.