Mangaluru, Sept 13, 2021: The affectionate smile of Oscar Anna with words like ‘Hello. Namaste. How are you,’ is just a memory now.
His smile and the kind words had no limitations. A stranger who would come to his office or house and Central Ministers would be welcomed with the same respect and love. A smile is just a mask for several politicians, but for Oscar it came directly from the heart. This love and affection towards everybody whom he met won the hearts of the party workers, the public, and also the Central leaders.
While most of the Congress leaders were washed away in the ‘Hindutva’ wave post-Babri Masjid demolition, Oscar continued to win in the temple town of Udupi till 1998. He is the only MP in Udupi to have won five times.
Oscar did not preach religious harmony like many politicians do but practiced it and set an example.
A devout Christian, Oscar respected the Hindus and had a great bond with Udupi Krishna Matha. So much so was the bond that Adamaru Matha Peetadhipathi Vishwapriya Tirtha went to the hospital in Mangaluru to enquire about his health. Oscar’s two close associates were M A Gafoor and Ashfaq.
Oscar’s office in Delhi was like a solution point for many politicians.
“Seeing of his office itself was an experience. People who had some work with the party or government-related work in the capital would visit Oscar’s office. Senior leaders of Karnataka used to come there for his help. He was a link between the party workers and High Command. His office was the most bustling place,” a senior Congress leader recollects.
Oscar was one of the very few politicians who was in power for four decades continuously. He served as Councilor of Udupi from 1972 to 76 and then as Lok Sabha member from 1980 to 1998. From 1998 till his death he was Rajya Sabha member.
Oscar and his family:
Son of Roque Fernandes and Leonissa M Fernandes, Oscar was born in Udupi on March 27, 1941. He was married to Blossom on August 26, 1981. They have a Son- Oshan and daughter- Oshanie.
Oscar began his political life as a member of the Udupi Municipal Council where he served from 1972 to 76. The Congress had split by then and the sitting MP and Minister T A Pai had remained with the old faction. Seeing his honest work and the love and affection he earned from the public, Indira Gandhi’s INC (I) decided to field Oscar against T A Pai.
Oscar won his first Parliament election by defeating Pai. Then there was no turning back. While Oscar became close to Delhi, he continued to have his roots in the Canara Coast.
In 1983 he became a member of the Committee on Absence of Members from the sittings of the house. When Indira Gandhi was killed and Rajiv succeeded her, Oscar was chosen by Rajiv to become his Parliamentary secretary. Oscar held this post from December 1984 to June 1985.
By then Oscar had become a household name. Oscaranna had won the heart of even his opponents. This made him win the second time in 1985. He did it again in 1989, 1991, and 1996.
Though he lost the lower house in 1998, within months the party made him enter the Upper House. Oscar who became Rajya Sabha Member in 1998 continued to be in the post till his death. He is one of the very few leaders who entered the Rajya Sabha for four consecutive terms.
When the UPA government came to power in 2004, Oscar was appointed as the Minister of State (Independente Charge) of Statistics and Program Implementation. Next year he held the portfolio of Youth Affairs and Sports and also Overseas Indian Affairs. In 2006 he was made the Minister of State for Labour and Employment. In UPA -2 he held the portfolio of Road Transport and Highways.
Oscar was a great organizer in the Udupi district. He was known for his strategies and friendly nature. While he was MP he was made the Pradesh Congress Committee president twice. He had also served as the Joint Secretary of AICC (1983), General Secretary (1985 and 1996 onwards).
Yoga and Music:
Oscar had a great love for Yoga, swimming, and Music. He would play the mouth organ.
A close aide of the Gandhi family:
Oscar enter Parliament during Indira Gandhi’s rule. In the crucial election of 1980, he won Udupi for Indira Gandhi’s Congress (I) faction. With this began Oscar’s journey with the Nehru-Gandhi family.
He had grabbed the attention of Indira Gandhi on his entry to parliament. When Rajiv became the Prime Minister, Oscar was made his Parliamentary Secretary. He was elevated in the party as well. Oscar enjoyed the support even during the later days.
When the party was in crisis, when many quit the party, Oscar stood strongly by the party High Command. This made him one of the strong pillars of Congress. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, or Priyanka Vadra had great respect towards Oscar. Oscar was always in power since 1972 but was never arrogant and remained Oscar Anna for the common man.
Congress leader Oscar Fernandes no more
Filed: 2.30 pm
Mangaluru, Sept 13, 2021: Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha Member Oscar Fernandes died due to cardiac arrest today.
He was under treatment at a private hospital in Mangaluru.
Oscar Fernandes was hospitalized on July 20 after he fell in his house. He was seriously injured and was unconsious. However later his condition showed some improvement. But he continued to be in hospital.
On Monday afternoon he died due to cardiac arrest, Congress leaders confirmed.
(to be updated…)