September 22, 2021
Oscar Fernandes was perhaps the most loyal, Low-Profile, Non-Controversial and behind the scenes politician in the last several decades. After the Fiasco of the Congress party in the last decade, several high-profile leaders deserted it during crisis hours, but Oscar was a true Loyalist, glued and devoted. Despite being at the helm of the affairs at the Top of Congress Party decision making team, Oscar always operated under the Radar. Many Parliamentarians and media personalities have opined Oscar being an honest, unassumingly brilliant and a workaholic Leader. Jairam Ramesh Tweeted a Tribute saying Oscar was one of the Sharpest Minds that he came across. This could have prompted Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister to elevate him as the one of the Three Parliamentary Secretaries alongside stalwarts like Ahmed Patel and Arun Singh. Rajeev Gandhi had very early noticed Oscar’s Organisational skills and his Astute Wit. The Trio was labelled Amar Akbar Anthony.
Hailing from Udupi, Oscar Fernades was born in 1941 to a reputed and influential Catholic Family. His Father Roque Fernandes was a renowned Academician. Roque Fernandes was the head of the Government Composite PU College and the First President of the Manipal Instituted of Technology. Oscar’s mother Leonissa M Fernandes was the first female magistrate in India. Oscar was part of the Youth Congress at an early age, worked at the grass root level and groomed himself to higher levels. Even During his advancing age, Oscar travelled across the country, largey accompanied by his Wife Blossom, headed Party meetings, debriefed Party Workers and held Public Grivane Forums. Unlike many, Social media centric politicians, who have resorted to the easy world of “Couch-Twitter Wars”, Oscar was a Old-fashioned 24/7 politician and a leader who was there for his people and loyal to his party at all hours and at all cost.
Oscar’s achievements have been in shadows for a long time. The Young and the Millennial Generation, may be less aware of his Captivating Achievements in the 1980’s and the 1990’s as a Five Time Lok Sabha MP from Udupi Constituency, a feat unlikely to be matched by a Congress Politician for ages to come. Throughout his career as a union minister, Oscar held a number of portfolios such as Statistics and Programme Implementation, NRI Affairs, Youth and Sports Affairs and Labour and Employment, in addition to being Cabinet Minister for Transport, Roads and Highways under UPA 1. Aftermath of the Congress’s debacle in 1977 General Elections, Indira Gandhi was reluctant to sport a young and relatively diffident Candidate like Oscar Fernandes. However, it was due to the insistence from Verrappa Moily, that Indira Gandhi acceded to offer him the Ticket, which eventually proved a defining success. Soft Spoken and Gentle in his demeanour, Oscar had canny panache of bonding with the masses. The Udupi Seat had a special affection towards Oscar, as he had risen from the bottom as a Party Youth Worker in the Sixties. Later he contested the Municipal Polls in 1972 and contested and won the Lok Sabha Seat in the 1980 General Elections from the Udupi Constituency. Thus, began the long enroute to Delhi and grew as a congress Strategist, groomed young leaders and remained one of the Closest and the Trusted Aids of the Gandhi Family. Its always the Financer (Builder) of a Tower or Sky Scrapper seizes the credit, the Architects, the Engineers and the designers are often lost from the limelight. Oscar Fernandes was the Architect, the Engineer and the designer of tons of drafts, blue prints, plans and Strategies that benefitted Congress Party for decades, but with modest credit.
Oscar was a Man of Arts, he had adored and internalised several Tulu Traditions like the Yakshgaana and was also a trained Kuchupudi dancer. Along with fellow Parliamentarian and Coastal Kannadiga Verappa Moily, Oscar performed on stage at the Kannada Sanga Club Delhi on Numerous Occasions, throughout his tenure as MP for over three decades. Another Academic Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh, who also shared good rapport with Oscar, had encouraged him to recite Tulu Songs during the Parliament sessions. On One Occasion Oscar had Sung the Famous Tulu Folk Song “ Oh Maga Koraga Ormbarayana” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gez-TYrSgzo. Such was his proclivity towards heritage.
In an Age governed by Flamboyant and Loud-Mouthed Public and Political Figures, who tend to grab attention more for their Scandalous Activities, distasteful Remarks and hate, a backroom Political figure like Oscar Fernandes is a rare commodity. Legacy of Leaders cannot only be judged by the style of the oratory, their ability to aggravate the mass or their larger-than-life Clout. At times, the Void left by Restrained and Tender Leaders like Oscar Fernandes is hard to fill.