By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
PANAJI– Goa, with a large diaspora spread across the world, may well have one of its own in queue for Portuguese premiership.
The left-leaning 54-year-old Antonio Costa, who traces his paternal roots to Goa, may well turn out to be Portugal’s next prime minister, after he succeeded in squeezing out the incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho with a historic coming together of the country’s three main Left parties on November 10.
A continent away, his aunt Sinikka Jussilainen Costa, who resides at Costa’s ancestral villa along the majestic Rua Abade Faria in Margao town, 35 km from Panaji, is crossing her fingers, as she recalls stories about the passionate political sparring between young Antonio and his father Orlando, something she believes groomed him as a politician.
“Now he has made us all so proud… He was always keen on politics. There used to be endless debates between him and his father over political issues,” she says.
In his political career spanning about three decades, Antonio, a lawyer and a member of the Socialist Party, has served as Lisbon mayor thrice and a minister in Portuguese cabinet in several capacities including holding charge of sensitive briefs such as judiciary and internal administration.
His father Orlando was an accomplished poet and writer and a member of the Portuguese Communist Party, which had been banned under the dictatorial regime of Oliveira Salazar.
Orlando was born in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique in 1929 but his family migrated to Goa, whose tropical shores he left at the age of 18 for Lisbon, where later he met his wife Maria Antonia Palla, Antonio’s mother.
Migration of Goans, then a Portuguese colony, to other Portuguese-held regions in Africa and Portugal itself was common practice, especially among Catholics. Goa was ruled by Portugal for 451 years before it was liberated by the Indian army in 1961.
Antonio’s pet name was Babush, which in Konkani means ‘little boy’. His first cousin, Anna Kaarina Jussilainen Costa, who also lives in Margao, said that the manner in which the ‘little boy’ managed to scale his way towards the summit of Portuguese politics is worthy of admiration.
“Yes, we are definitely proud of how he has managed to reach the top echelons of the Portuguese political sphere,” Anna Kaarina Jussilainen Costa told IANS.
Ironically, while Goa basks in Antonio’s glory trail in faraway Portugal where his father migrated to from the colonies, the Indian state has been a witness to a perennial social and political squabble over in-migration.
But for many like Jose Elmano Coelho Pereira, co-host of the Semana de Cultura, an annual event which celebrates Goa’s unique Portugal-influenced identity and culture, Costa is a shining example of how Goa’s soft power is increasing globally.
“The influence of Goans is growing in Portugal. Goans will now have a lot of say in Portugal and around the world… It is definitely a matter of pride that Goans have proven themselves to be the best and capable to reach high positions even in other countries,” he said.