For years he was the Catholic face of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Goa, he was the man who stood by the party even when it did not give him his due, he was the man who took bullets for the party when he called himself a Christian-Hindu, a statement that is still not forgotten, he was the man who the party overlooked when his promotion to the chief minister’s post appeared to be a given. Mapusa MLA Francis D’Souza did for the party what few others after him have done, yet didn’t make it to the coveted post. And he graciously accepted the party decision.
D’Souza’s first term in the Legislative Assembly was as an MLA of the short-lived Goa Rajiv Congress Party, when he along with Dr Wilfred de Souza were elected on the party tickets. When the party folded up, he moved, not as would have been expected to the Congress, but to the Bharatiya Janata Party and retained the seat for the party four times. He became minister when BJP formed the government and deputy chief minister even, and in November 2014 came within a hair’s breadth of becoming the chief minister, but he was overlooked and served another couple of years as deputy chief minister under a junior colleague. In 2017, when BJP led the government again, D’Souza quietly accepted the number four position in the cabinet, until he was dropped due to ill health in September last year.
D’Souza’s ties with the BJP quickly deteriorated after that. He had threatened to quit the party at that time saying that he had overstayed in it, but didn’t take this forward. You could gauge the hurt he felt, when speaking to the media, he had said, “I am fighting for my self-respect. If you can’t respect that, then I don’t want anything from you. It’s all over.”
And, over it did appear to be. Sidelined by the party that he gave two decades of his political life to, D’Souza died surrounded by his family and his friends. For days family members camped outside the ICU in the hospital where he had been admitted, keeping vigil and praying for a miracle. When the end came, they accepted it as the inevitable. The messages of condolence from his political colleagues then poured in, expounding his qualities and his leadership. But he was not there to read them.
D’Souza was more than just a karyakarta, he was a leader who was always available to the people of the constituency of Mapusa, being just a phone call away and his door open for them. As a minister he held the Health, Urban Development and Law portfolios, among others. For his services to the party, he perhaps deserved more but somehow that prize eluded him. It is now too late for that, and all he can be offered are flowers and prayers for his soul.