India’s tiniest state, Goa has something to inspire other states with, as it recorded heavy voter turnout, which emphasised that Goans realise their responsibility in a democracy.
According to initial estimates of the Election Commission 83 percent of Goa’s registered 11.09 lakh voters opted to exercise their right to franchise in Saturday's state elections.
North Goa participated in elections in a big way with record 84 percent voters turning out, as compared to 81.5 percent in South Goa. Election authorities expect the voting percentage to go up further after final calculations, which will include counting of electronically transmitted 800-odd votes by those entitled for postal voting.
But another thing that put Goa a notch higher was that apart from higher voters’ turnout, the state maintained its record of holding peaceful elections. No untoward incident was reported from any of the 40 constituencies.
Though malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported from several polling booths, the poll panel said that they were replaced instantly and voting resumed in the affected booths.
That said, however, the peaceful conduct of polling does not reflect the intense fight various political parties put up to ensure victory. Goa will face a nail-biting competition amid the key contenders.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the main Opposition party, Congress are the main contenders for power in the state, though many regional and smaller parties are also in the fray. Among them, BJP’s erstwhile ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which went to polls in partnership with Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) and Shiv Sena, is also fancying its chances of ruling Goa yet again after a gap of 40 years.
Voters started visiting various polling booths from the time voting started at 7 am. By 5 pm, when the polling ended, most of them had registered their participation. The good weather was also one of the factors for higher voters’ turnout as the mercury, which was hovering around 36 degrees for the entire week, dipped to early 30s encouraging voters to visit the polling booths.
However, the record turnout of voters is bound to fox political parties and pollsters. Normally, higher voter turnout is attributed to anti-incumbency; it is believed that voters usually come out in huge numbers to vent their anger against the ruling dispensation. However, the BJP which was initially wary of its prospects of a second term, has reasons to feel that it was pro-incumbency factor that led to the record voting in the state.
The Election Commission, on its part, attributed the high voting percentage to its intense awareness campaigns and appeals to voters through various mediums, including social media.
Enthusiasm among voters was visible wherever this correspondent visited. Women voters outnumbered their male counterparts in many constituencies as they stood in queues patiently for their turn to vote. About 50,000 central police personnel deployed had a relatively peaceful time as workers of all political parties stuck to the poll panel's instructions, which direct them to stay at least 200 meters away from polling booths and to refrain from last minute coaxing and cajoling of voters. Voters on their parts made lives of security forces further easier by voluntarily displaying their voter identity cards, while marching in neat lines towards the polling booths.
However, Goa will have to endure a long agonising wait untill 11 March to know the outcome of the polls. They would not even have the benefit of knowing trends and speculations, in view of the Election Commission's blanket ban on showing results of exit polls till the end of polling process in all five states.
The polls in all states will only end on 8 March when Uttar Pradesh will vote in the seventh and last phase, while the counting for all five states will be conducted on 11 March.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his successor as Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar were among the early voters. Both of them have reasons to be nervous as they have been marked out by the Opposition. MGP, after breaking up ties with BJP, is gunning for both.
Parsekar is seeking re-election from his home constituency Mandrem, while Parrikar’s close aide Siddharth Kuncolinkar, who replaced him as Panaji MLA after Parrikar resigned from his seat after being appointed the Union Defence Minister, will not find it easy to defend Parrikar's bastion from his opponents.
Since Parrikar is touted to take over as the new Goa chief minister if BJP emerges victorious, all his opponents want to block his smooth passage by ensuring BJP’s defeat in Parrikar’s pocket borough, Panaji.
Parrikar and others in the BJP, while waiting eagerly for the final outcome in entire Goa, may heave a temporary sigh of relief with sentiments among voters matching with pollsters that BJP may be enjoying an edge over its rival.
Updated Date: Feb 04, 2017 21:55 PM