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Goa’s three-time doctor-CM used ‘hypothermia’ to overcome opponents, says biography

Panaji (IANS): For three-time Goa chief minister and veteran surgeon Dr Wilfred De Souza, hypothermia, a surgical principle where body metabolism is deliberately pulled down to aid surgery, was also a favoured ideal political philosophy.

ImageDe Souza’s authorised biography ‘Dr Wilfred De Souza – A Journey With An Exceptional Leader of Goa‘ written by Daniel Albuquerque contains an insider’s perspective on the most turbulent times in Goa’s political history — the decades of 1990s and 2000s — when India’s smallest state saw 18 chief ministers.

“I am a doctor first. I just happened to drop into politics,” De Souza told IANS.

Published by Rajhauns Sankalpana, the 303-page book charts the rise of a man right from the days he climbed on the boughs of cashew trees in the village of Aldona as a child. De Souza would eventually grow up to climb to the pinnacle of Goa’s political world to become the state’s chief minister thrice (May 18, 1993 – April 2, 1994, April 8, 1994 – December 16, 1994 and July 30, 1998 – November 26, 1998).

As an accomplished surgeon, De Souza is also a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh, England). In the brief extract below, De Souza also sheds light on how he used “hypothermia”, to inject a powerful political intervention in Goa’s politics, soon after the state was liberated from 451 years of Portuguese rule.

“After the Bangladesh war in 1971, Indira Gandhi rode to power on an unprecedented popular wave. The rival Congress that had originated due to the split in 1969 was erased. In the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, UGP (United Goans Party) and Congress allied. Dr Jack Sequeira asked me to help the common candidate Purushottam Kakodkar who was the candidate from North Goa. I went for the initial meeting where it was discussed that a grand campaign should be held.

“Finally, I was asked as to what my strategy would be. I answered in one word: ‘Hypothermia’. It is a method used in surgery to bring down the metabolism of the patient to cut down on one’s activity which aids in an operation. I drew out a quiet door-to-door campaign and took measures to make it appear to the Opposition that there is no competition.” He describes the low-key campaign.

“It was so low-key that the Opposition thought they had a walkover. But we won by over 3,000 votes,” the book states.

The book also promises plenty of first-hand information about the unending political intrigues as the young state came into its own.

According to Albuquerque, the author, he has attempted to decipher why the Uganda-born De Souza was regarded as Goa’s Chanakya, after the wily Indian sage who authored the Arthashastra considered as one of the greatest treatises on statecraft and strategy.

“He was a great subject to work on. A charismatic leader who lived in the most interesting times in Goa’s politics,” Albuquerque said.

by Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

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