Mangaluru: Antonio Costa, the popular and charismatic three-term mayor of Lisbon-Portugal of the Socialist Party has become the Prime Minister of Portugal. Antonio Costa, who traces his paternal roots to Goa, and the leader of Portugal’s Socialist Party was named prime minister and tasked with forming a government on Wednesday after weeks of political instability caused by an inconclusive election last month. It is learnt that Antonio’s family members used to call him ‘Babush’, a commonly used term of endearment in Konkani for ‘little boy’.
But the ‘little boy’ over the years has assumed key positions in the Portuguese government, apart from the incumbent office of Leader of Opposition and Mayor of Lisbon. Antonio has also served as the minister for internal administration, minister of justice, minister for parliamentary affairs among others in his political career which stretches over nearly three decades.
Portugal’s ‘Gandhi’, 54-year-old Antonio Costa, who has become the new Prime Minister of Portugal after the coalition of leftist parties reached a majority, has a Goan connection. Kin and supporters of the left-leaning former Lisbon mayor, who won Portuguese hearts and earned the humble moniker after he transformed the fortunes of Mouraria, a drug-infested and prostitution-ridden neighbourhood of the Capital, cannot contain their joy as Costa appears to be just a step away from taking over reins of the debt-ridden former colonial country, which ruled Goa for 451 years.
“Yes, we are definitely proud of how he has managed to reach the top echelons of the Portuguese political sphere,” Antonio’s first cousin, Anna Kaarina Jussilainen Costa told reporters in Goa. Anna lives in the more-than-a-century-old Costa ancestral house, one of the many which line the stunning Rua Abade Faria in Margao town. Anna’s mother and Antonio’s paternal aunt Sinikka Jussilainen Costa, also has fond memories of Antonio’s Goa sojourns. “On one of his later visits, some 15 years ago, he came to Goa along with a Portuguese parliamentary delegation. He visited us here. He will succeed and ensure Portuguese does not follow the way of Greece,” she said. “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 as she recalls his visits to Goa.
Antonio Costa is the son of Orlando Costa, an accomplished poet and writer.Antonio’s grandfather, Luis Afonso Maria da Costa, hailed from Goa.The appointment comes after Costa’s anti-austerity alliance with communists Greens and the Left bloc toppled the 11-day-old con servative minority govern ment in a dramatic parlia mentary vote earlier this month. Portugal’s political difficulties are being closely watched in Brussels and Costa has sought to allay fears his anti-austerity drive could propel the country back to deficit-busting policies that forced it into a three-year $83 billion bailout in 2011.
Costa, the son of the ferociously anti-colonial writer, the late Orlando da Costa, whose classic ‘O Signo da Ira’ is set in the Margao neighborhoods he grew up in the 1930s and 40s. Later, when studying in Portugal, the senior Costa became a staunch opponent of the Salazar dictatorship, member of the (then outlawed) Communist Party, and a well-known Lisbon intellectual who retained life-long affection and connection to his ancestral Goa.
His son is a political prodigy. Antonio Luis dos Santos da Costa has been Portugal’s minister of parliamentary affairs, minister of justice, and minister of internal administration. He headed his party’s list for the 2004 European elections then served on the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, before becoming one of just 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament.
In 2007, Costa gambled big. He ran for Lord Mayor of Lisbon, the troubled centerpiece of an urban area where nearly 30% of Portugal’s population lives. After winning, he immediately moved his office to Mouraria, a notoriously crime-infested locality, where he started getting rid of the drug-peddling and prostitution that used to flourish all around. Similar efforts steadily extended city-wide.
Despite the prevailing wrenching national economic crisis, Lisbon has transformed: it is now the safest, cleanest, greenest, and most livable big city in Europe. Its mayor has been re-elected three times. When Costa won the right to lead his Socialist Party in September 2014, it seemed certain he would sweep to power in the 2015 elections. But despite the prime ministerial candidate’s overwhelming personal popularity, things have not quite turned out that way.