By George, it’s pati, patni aur woh & some crores

Now enacting his final scene under the cruel directorship of M/s Parkinson and Alzheimer, George Fernandes is among the most intriguing actors to have lit up the political theatre.

# Born in Mangalore and trained in Bangalore to become a priest, he built his political reputation as a trade union leader in Bombay, taking on millowners. Elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay and Bihar, the Dakshina Kannadiga was rejected by voters in Bangalore North.

# The Lohia-ite socialist who set up a co-operative bank for taxi drivers and drove out Coca-Cola and IBM as industries minister in the Janata Party government of Morarji Desai, he became a pillar of the BJP-led NDA government of Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose RSS membership he had earlier questioned.

# Once a supporter of nuclear disarmament, Fernandes, as defence minister, endorsed Pokhran-II. Forced to resign after Tehelka‘s Operation West End sting operation but exonerated later, the CBI named him in the FIR on the irregularities surrounding the purchase of the Barak anti-missile system from Israel.

But all these anachronisms pales in front of the unfolding catfight over Fernandes’ personal wealth involving his legally wedded wife Leila Kabir (whom he never formally divorced), and his friend and companion for a quarter of a century, Jaya Jaitly. (Sean Fernandes, the investment-banker son of George and Leila, is playing a bit role.)

Fernandes now suffers from both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and the two women are squabbling for the spoils.

While the grim details of the sequel of Pati, Patni, Beta aur Woh follow established lines, what is staggering is the kind of wealth that the “working class leader”—whose kurta-pyjama and economy class travel even as Union minister was made much of by spin-meisters—has accumulated and is now up for grabs.

# According to The Telegraph, Calcutta, “at the core of the tussle is immovable property worth Rs 7 crore in Hubli and a flat in south Delhi’s posh Hauz Khas.”

# According to The Times of India, the clash that has built up since November over who cares for George and “more pertinently over the keys to his known assets reportedly worth Rs 12 crore”.

# According to Outlook magazine, “three flats in the names of Municipal Mazdoor Union, Bombay Labour Union, party journal The Other Side, and a basement leased to Dastakari at 6/105 Kaushalya Park, Hauz Khas, New Delhi; rest of the money from the sale of a 10-acre plot in Nelamangala, on the outskirts of Bangalore, valued at Rs 22 crore, but sold for half that amount;  A property in Mangalore valued at Rs 2-3 crore sold a couple of years ago for Rs 60 lakh.”

# According to The Indian Express, the payment for Fernandes’ Nelamangala property, inherited from his mother Alice Fernandes, was received in stages and the final payment came after the affidavits had been filed for the LS polls and Rajya Sabha polls: “approximately Rs 15.6 crore for Nelamangala, plus Rs 60 lakh from the sale of an ancestral home, minus Rs 3.06 crore paid towards tax.”

# According to Ahmedabad Mirror, George’s (and Leila’s) son Sushanto “Sean” Fernandes acted when one of his uncles informed him that Jaya Jaitly had used the power of attorney to sell the 20-acre Nelamangala property, “pegged at 12 crore” which was subsequently deposited as fixed deposits in banks.

# According to Deccan Herald, Fernandes declared moveable assets of Rs 70,439,798 and immovable assets at Rs 25,000,000 while contesting the Muzaffarnagar seat in Bihar in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections: cash Rs 20,000; deposits in banks, financial institutions and non-banking financial companies Rs 70,359,798; and bonds, debentures and shares in companies — Rs 60,000.

Photograph: courtesy Outlook


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