Oscar Fernandes, a veteran Congress leader and former union minister, passed away in Mangalore on Monday at the age of 80. Fernandes, a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha, was critically injured after he fell accidentally while doing his regular exercise on July 20 this year and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a super specialty hospital at Mangalore. As he was found to have an internal injury, a surgery was also carried out by doctors.
Born on March 27, 1941 to Roque Fernandes and Leonissa Fernandes, he started his political career as Councillor of Udupi Municipal Council in 1972. He is survived by his wife Blossom Fernandes, son and a daughter.
HIS POLITICAL CAREER
A close confidante of the Gandhi family, Fernandes had always remained a disciplined party man throughout his political life. In his five decade long political career, Fernandes represented Udupi constituency in the Lok Sabha five times and was elected to the Rajya Sabha four times.
He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980, followed by wins from the same constituency in 1984, 1989, 1991 and 1996. He has been a Rajya Sabha member for four terms since 1998. He had served as Union Minister for Labour and Employment from 2006 to 2009 and had held different portfolios, including NRI affairs, Statistics and Programme Implementation in the UPA-II government led by Manmohan Singh.
Fernandes was also the chairman of the central election authority of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) and AICC general secretary in 1996. He was president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) in the late eighties. He also served as Parliament Secretary to Rajiv Gandhi.
He was also a close confidant of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and used to be known as a trouble-shooter for the party as he handled various situations.
STORY OF COW URINE ‘CURING’ CANCER
On March 18 last year, Fernandes extolled the virtues of ‘gaumutra‘ (cow urine) and shared an anecdote about a man claiming to have cured his cancer by drinking cow urine to drive his point home. Participating in a debate in Rajya Sabha on two bills for setting up national commissions for homoeopathy and Indian systems of medicine, Fernandes had said, “My extreme friend Jairam Ramesh pulls my leg, when I talk of ‘gaumutra’.”
Sharing an anecdote, Fernandes had said that once during a visit to an ashram near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh he had met a person who claimed to have cured his cancer by drinking ‘gaumutra’.
Many BJP leaders have earlier spoken about the healing power of ‘gaumutra’. However, the Congress has always reacted sharply to such remarks.
A FIRM BELIEVER IN YOGA
Fernandes had also shared that he had severe pain in knee joint and doctors had suggested for replacement surgery. However, he refused and started doing ‘Vajrasana’. “I started Vajrasana, practising yoga, and today I am able to do wrestling without any difficulty,” he told the members of the Upper House.
“When (former) Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee ji had a knee surgery, I thought if I had known him earlier, I would have definitely gone to him and ask him to follow ‘Vajrasan’ and it could have been cured,” he had said.
He had also claimed to have met a person in US aged around 104 years and moving swiftly as a young man.
“Yoga is our wealth. If you practise yoga, may be our budget cost of health can be reduced by 50 per cent. It’s way of life,” he had said. “Our own Indian systems of medicine will provide a lot of reliefs even before going to a doctor,” he added.
(with inputs from PTI)