Mangaluru, Sep 13: Former union minister and Rajya Sabha member Oscar Fernandes, who was critical after suffering injuries after an accidental fall, passed away on Monday, September 13. He was 80.
Oscar was availing of treatment in the ICU at Yenepoya Hospital in the city in July. While he had been for routine dialysis, he underwent a check-up for a severe headache. As he had internal injuries, he was admitted to the ICU in the hospital. A plethora of senior Congress leaders including former chief minister Siddaramaiah and State Congress chief D K Shivakumar, and Lok Sabha opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge had made a beeline to visit the Congress veteran.
He is survived by his wife Blossom Fernandes and two children.
Oscar was born on March 27, 1941, to Roque Fernandes (Famous headmaster of Board high school, Udupi) and Leonisa Fernandes (First Lady Bench Magistrate of undivided South Kanara district). Oscar had his education at St Cecily’s Convent School, at Board High school and in MGM College, Udupi. He served in LIC for a very short period and tried his luck by running an enterprise at Manipal. He was involved in agriculture on their family land and in the land taken on the lease (Geni) in Ambalpady, closer to his house. He ploughed the fields, grew rice and bagged ‘Best Rice Grower Award’ from Syndicate Agricultural Foundation of Manipal.
Oscar as a political representative was involved in social work too. He founded the ‘Jolly Club’ and arranged a reading room facility to cultivate reading habits among youth. Services he rendered include the Honorary President of Udupi Auto Rickshaw Union, leader of volunteers during ‘Udupi Mutt Paryayas’, involved in Udupi church administration and in its activities and in other areas. He served in the needs and involved himself in the joys and sorrows of people of Udupi without caste, creed and language barriers. He joined as a member of the local unit of the Indian National Congress and climbed the success ladder step by step.
Oscar had close proximity to AICC leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. He was minister for Transport, Road and Highways in the Manmohan Singh led-UPA government. He was also given the additional charge of the Ministry of Labour. Oscar also worked as Chairman of the Central Election Authority of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). Earlier, he had worked as All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary (1996). During the late 1980s, he was president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. From 1989 to 1999 served as a member of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. He also served as Parliament Secretary to Rajiv Gandhi.
For the first time, he was elected to the 7th Lok Sabha in 1980 from the Udupi constituency. From the same constituency, Oscar was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984, 1989, 1991 and 1996. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1998. He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2004. Served as Union Minister from 2004 to 2009, on portfolios such as NRI Affairs, Youth and Sports Affairs, Statistics and Programme Implementation and Labour and Employment. Also, he was a member of the Council of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Oscar also served as a member of the Municipal Council in Udupi from 1972 to 1976.
Oscar was a talented person. He was passionate about sports like kabaddi, volleyball, swimming and arts like Yakshagana. He practised Yoga and has performed in many places. He was a ‘Kuchipudi’ dancer which he learnt in Delhi. He played the mouth organ from his childhood. Oscar used to play the harmonium, keyboard, tabla and compose poems before getting actively involved in politics. He was a singer too. Whenever time permitted, he used to sing in the church choir.