Loyalist, mentor, Oscar Fernandes was a man for all seasons for Congress


New Delhi: A man for all seasons for Congress, Oscar Fernandes who passed away on Monday, was a loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family and often worked behind-the-scenes for the success of party programmes as he organised youth to carry out various organisational tasks.

An approachable, affable leader, Fernandes strove towards building consensus on various issues within the party and served Congress on various organisational posts in his long political innings.  

A five-time member of Lok Sabha and a four-time member of Rajya Sabha, Fernandes served as a union minister during the two Congress-led UPA governments.

The 80-year-old leader was a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka.

Oscar Fernandes belonged to a generation of Congress leaders who laid much by the store in listening to party workers. A leader with immense patience, he found time to meet workers from different parts of the country. Many approached him for letters for various tasks and found him receptive to their demands.

A leader with a smiling demeanour, Oscar Fernandes was a trained performer in Kuchipudi dance form. He also used to practice Yoga.  

He was born in Udupi on March 27, 1941 and started his political career as a member of the Municipal Council in the town.

He was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1980 and was a close confidant of former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi. He was parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister from December 1984 to June 1985.

As a parliamentarian, Oscar Fernandes had cross-party connections. 

As AICC functionary he took a special interest in “organising youth”. He worked to create a network of dedicated party workers who could be given key grassroots responsibilities especially related to electoral preparations.  

He liked to work across fields and handled negotiations with rebels in the northeast. His work as convenor of the Parliamentary Forum on HIV-AIDS from 2000 to 2004 was widely noticed. He was also Member, Parliamentary Forum on Population and Public Health and Vice- President, Parliamentary Forum on Youth and Parliamentary Forum on Children.

During the first UPA government, Oscar Fernandes held various portfolios –  Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (May 2004 – Jan. 2006), Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (Nov 2005 – Jan 2006), and Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (Oct. 2006 – March 2009).

He was also Minister of State (Independent Charge) Without Portfolio from January to October 2006.  

During the second UPA government, he was Minister of Road Transport and Highways (June 2013 – May 2014) and held additional charge of Minister of Labour and Employment (Dec. 2013 – May 2014).

He devoted himself to tasks assigned to him and worked long hours.  Often he was the last to leave the AICC among the senior office-bearers of the party. He was fondly referred to as “Brother Oscar”.     

He served the party in various roles including Karnataka Congress chief and  AICC general secretary.

Reflecting his diverse interests, Oscar Fernandes had received the Syndicate Agricultural Foundation Award for the highest yield in paddy and Karnataka Government State Level Award for agriculture.

Congress leaders paid him glowing tributes describing him as a “mentor” and “banyan tree”.   

Party leader Rahul Gandhi described his passing away as “ a personal loss”.

“He was a guide and mentor to many of us in the Congress Party.  He will be missed and fondly remembered for his contributions,” he said.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said Oscar Fernandes was one of the finest, most loyal soldiers of the Congress party.

“We will all miss him immensely,” she said.  (ANI)