Monday 22 July 2024

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In Dr Willy, Goa lost a rebel politician and master strategist


With Dr Wilfred de Souza’s demise at 88, Goa has lost one of the best administrators, a master manipulator in politics, a rebellion and a very kind hearted person, who unfortunately played community cards for political survival, but was actually secular at heart.

His funeral would be held on Sunday, 6 September at Saligao Church at 10.30 am.

Goa government has declared three-day mourning in the state from today, with all government programmes cancelled till Sunday.

A very long inning de Souza played, from 1974 till 2012, for almost four decades, with six victories and four defeats in electoral politics.

He served Goa as a chief minister twice, deputy chief minister thrice, once a minister and leader of the opposition once, but never completed a full term of five years in any position.

Dr Willy, as he was popularly known all over Goa, was also called a Rajki Bism-saib (Political Bishop) within his community.

He has also been the political godfather of many young politicians, including Luizinho Faleiro, Herculano Dourado, Radharao Gracias, Churchill Alemao, Jose Philip D’Souza, today’s deputy chief minister Francisco D’Souza of the BJP, up to today’s young and dynamic independent MLA Vijay Sardesai.


He entered electoral politics in 1972, as the UGP candidate from Siolim, losing by 849 votes to Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party’s Chandrakant Chodankar.

But Dr Willy then stormed back to the then Assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu during the same term, through a historic by-election of Benaulim, in 1974, held due to demise of Vasudev Sarmalkar.

The equal number of votes to him (UGP) and Luta Ferrao (MGP) made Ferrao the MLA with lots, which Dr Willy challenged before the judicial commission and won. But Ferrao went to the high court and Dr Willy was allowed so sit in the Assembly ‘without speaking and voting.’

His debut in the Assembly, at the age of 47, was thus a silent member without voting powers.

The UGP then split to merge into the national stream by 1977, in the post-emergency period, with Jack Sequeira group merging into Janata Party while Babu Naik merging into the Congress.

This is the only election Dr Willy did not contest, but Goa Assembly got dissolved within two years with Shashikala Kakodkar-led MGP government collapsing within two years due to rebellion.


Dr Willy then came back to the Goa Assembly in 1980 as the Congress (Urs) legislator and a leader of the Congress by challenging Babu Naik’s leadership and forming his own group within the Congress.

Congress was swept to power with 20 seats in the 30-member Assembly, reducing to mere 7 the MGP, which had ruled the state for the first 17 years.

Pratapsing Rane was elected the first Congress chief minister, as a compromise candidate, due to infighting between Willy and Babu.

Both of them were not inducted in the cabinet initially but were roped in later in June 1981, with Dr Willy holding deputy chief minister’s post, but only till September 1983 – for little over two years.

He rebelled against Rane government and formed his own Goa Congress, to face the 1984 Assembly election.

But Dr Willy lost the election from Calangute to MGP’s Shrikant Malik by mere 230 votes and Goa Congress represented in the House with a sole legislator – Luizinho Faleiro. Congress once again won 20 seats.

But then came the language agitation, where defeated Willy played a major role in ‘politically’ leading the 555-day long violent agitation Goa ever witnessed, which the Konkani Porjecho Avaz won by making Konkani the official language.


This was also the home coming for Dr Willy, who then chose Saligao as his permanent constituency in the then 40-member House, in spite of his Christian community not having absolute majority there.

Dr Willy won four consecutive elections from Saligao – 1990, 1994, 1999 and 2002 – by skilfully splitting the opposition votes and winning, but not with a very comfortable margin.

In fact Saligao became BJP’s bastion in 2007 with Dr Willy’s own personal assistant Trajano D’Mello revolting against him and splitting around 2300 votes.

In 2012, Dr Willy shifted to Aldona by joining Trinamool Congress, losing miserably to the BJP even by losing his deposit with mere 643 votes.

He fielded his son-in-law and architect Tulio D’Souza as an independent in Saligao, to once again lose to second time BJP MLA and tourism minister Dilip Parulekar.


Dr Willy’s 40-year long political journey however was never affected with defeats and he always remained an undisputable leader and a master strategist.

He rebelled to form Goa Congress in 1984, Goa Rajiv Congress before 1999 election, Nationalist Congress Party to contest 2002 and 2007 elections and then the Trinamool Congress in 2012.

Still, he always considered himself to be a loyal Congressman, but did not hesitate to join hands with the saffron Bharatiya Janata Party.

He toppled Pratapsing Rane-led government in July 1998 to become the chief minister with the support of four-member Bharatiya Janata Party, which had just made a debut in the Goa Assembly.

He never joined the Congress back, but formed Goa Rajiv Congress to contest 1999 election, stating that he is loyal to Rajiv Gandhi and the Gandhi family.

 But GRC was then merged into the Nationalist Congress Party, when Sharad Pawar split from the Congress at national level by questioning nationality of Rajiv Gandhi’s wife Sonia Gandhi.

He quit the NCP before 2012 polls and joined hands with Mamta Banerjee, yet another West Bengal-based Congress rebel, but could never strengthen its roots in Goa.


Dr Willy was not a chief minister for a long time, but Goans always remembered him as ex-CM and Goan bureaucracy still remembers him as one of the best administrators.

His first term was hardly 18-month long, from May 1993 to November 1994, with Ravi Naik in between made the CM for four days, thanks to the then Goa Governor Bhanu Pratap Singh, who dismissed Dr Willy for not attending Holi celebration at Raj Bhavan.

His second tenure – the honeymoon with the BJP – did not last for more than four months, from July to November 1998.

Luizinho Faleiro, his own disciple, toppled his government on 26 November 1998, to bring back Congress to power.

Dr Willy has always been the finest administrator. The new Goa Medical College is largely his creation.

Considered to be Goa’s top surgeon of Goa, Dr Willy equally enjoyed his medical profession and had his clinic near Azad Maidan in Panaji running even when he was active in politics.

But he would be more remembered for the political surgeries he conducted on different occasions in different situations.

With his demise, ends an era of Goan politics, just not one individual politician. is now on Telegram & also Youtube. Kindly subscribe for free & remain updated.

Total Comments :2

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The 'Pitamaha' or the 'holy father' of flipping/jumping parties to propagate self interest. Ravi Naik comes in next or first, probably they both have visited every other party in India/Goa. Anyway, people say he was a gfood doctor. RIP.

Anjay , Mapusa

Politics aside, Dr. Wilfred was one of the best surgeons of Goa and will always be remembered.

RIP 'dotor'.

Francisco Lourenco , Goa



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