by Shiv Kumar

(Analysis)

Poor George Fernandes! Just when his friends in Bihar led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar looked at his ailing frame last year and wrote his obituary, ol’ George bounced back. The glow in his face returned as did the spring in his step. And as he did for the past 30 years the khadi-clad polyglot rolled up his sleeves to stitch together another coalition in a bid to stay relevant in politics.

Okay, it was time to say goodbye to Bihar. The past three decades had been one long journey through the badlands of the blighted state which George made his home after having frittered away his base in Bombay long ago in the 1970s. The past three decades had seen some caste chieftain or the other open his doors for George to hunker down. Nitish was the last of his hosts in Bihar and suddenly like the Catholic missionary his parents intended him to be, George saw a sign – from Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.

The UP phase would have been another of George’s pauses between political wheeling-dealing at the Centre but for Sonia Gandhi’s deep antipathy to the Yadav Don Quixote and his Sancho Panza Amar Singh. You can’t sup with the two and live, decrees Mama Mia! Amitabh Bachchan discovered this the hard way when he was forced out of the royal court. Anil Ambani is busy completing his penance for having sinned. The RBI’s watchdogs are still baying for `Saharashri’ Subroto Roy’s blood.

So George’s feet must be fed to the fire for stepping across the Laxman Rekha. And there has been plenty of ammo to arm his detractors. George’s track record as India’s Defense Minister was not exactly glorious. The Kargil fiasco happened under his watch. The coffingate scandal could be traced to his own office. His closest associate Jaya Jaitley was allegedly caught taking money in a sting operation by Tehelka. George was accused of overruling his army officers to permit gun-runners have a free run on the Indo-Burma border.

Were it not for his role as Prime Minister Vajpayee’s main trouble shooter in keeping the NDA government afloat, George Fernandes would have been sacked and tried for treason long ago.

Now this cat’s nine lives seem to have run out. The CBI under the Sonia Gandhi dispensation seems to have done its homework before filing the FIR against George for allegedly taking kickbacks in the purchase of Barak missiles from Israel.

Documents signed by President Kalam as head of the DRDO opposing the purchase have already been released to pro-Congress media outlets. Naval officers who expressed dissent over the purchase of Barak missiles are being paraded around to discredit George.

As speculation mounts about George’s interrogation at the hands of the CBI and his possible arrest, support for the man remains muted. BJP, which heads the tattered NDA of which George is still the convenor, has a few soothing words on offer. As are Nitish Kumar and Mulayam. But none will go out of their way to risk their careers for George.

The road seems lonely for the man who can’t even win a municipal election on his own. Suddenly George’s mask has been ripped off to reveal the political fixer he has allowed himself to degenerate into. And with ignominy comes the status of pariahdom. Poor George Fernandes – dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka!

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