Sankhalim constituency in north Goa records 88.59% vote

True to its tradition of violence-free polling, Goa reported peaceful voting — barring 10 minor poll-related offences registered across the State — in the Assembly elections held on Saturday.

The total polling was 82%, according to the Election Commission. The counting and results will be declared on March 6.

(Goa had recorded 68% voting in the 2002 Assembly election while it was 72% in 2007.)

While constituencies of north Goa returned 82.8 %, in south Goa it was 80%.

The Sankhalim constituency of north Goa had the highest voting percentage of 88.59%. Poriem constituency of north Goa, where senior Congressman and Speaker Pratapsingh Rane is contesting his 10th Assembly election since 1972, had a record turnout of 88.29 % while the neighbouring constituency of Valpoi, represented by his son and State Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, recorded 86.20% voting. Velim constituency of south Goa — where there was a controversy over a search operation conducted on a local church priest followed by violence in which five police men were injured recently — the voting was the lowest at 73%.

Rural enthusiasm

Some of the rural constituencies such as Madkai recorded 88 % voting followed by Sanguem (86%). Apart from voter enthusiasm, strict arrangements to handle sensitive areas by the election machinery, special drive to register young voters ahead of the election, and an elaborate exercise by the Election Commission to update the electoral rolls, were major reasons for the big rise in turnout, said political analysts.

While the poll monitoring system definitely curbed the menace of bogus voting, it slowed down the voting process at least in some constituencies leading to huge queues in many polling stations.

Healthy sign

“This is a healthy sign. There are still queues in several stations even after 5 (p.m.),” an Election Commission official said at round 7 p.m. on Saturday. The main political parties made claims and counter claims about how the high turnout was to their advantage.

While Bharatiya Janata Party's leaders led by Leader of the Opposition in outgoing Assembly Manohar Parrikar and in-charge of campaign Sripad Naik emphatically described the high turnout as a “vote for change” and a clear mandate for BJP-Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) alliance, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat emphatically stated that the Congress-NCP alliance would get a clear mandate for stability.

Deputy Speaker Mauvin Godinho, who was one of the Congress election campaign managers, admitted that the high voter turnout may not necessarily be good for the Congress-NCP but he refused to accept that it was a vote in favour of the BJP-MGP, indicating that it may result in a large number of independents getting elected.

“This is a reinforcement of the government's good deeds. People from all sections came out to back the government and keep communal forces at bay,” Congress working president Francisco Sardinha said.

Well-conducted poll

Rajya Sabha Congress MP Shantaram Naik thanked the Election Commission for a well-conducted election leading to high voter turnout. There were minor incidents in some parts of the State. Polling at Kirbhat in the Nuvem constituency in south Goa was suspended after a clash between supporters of the former Tourism Minister, Mickky Pacheco of the Goa Vikas Party (GVP) and Power Minister Aleixo Sequeira (Congress). In Panaji earlier in the morning, Congress candidate Yatin Parekh and his supporters clashed with BJP followers, forcing police to intervene.

In Davorlim in south Goa, police escorted Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao's daughter Valanka Alemao out of a house where she was campaigning in the vicinity of a polling booth. In Vasco in south Goa, a police inspector was suspended after he did not stop a bus load of voters while they were being ferried to a polling booth. Two polling officials were replaced in Dongri area of St. Andre constituency in Tiswadi taluk while at Kundaim in Marcaim constituency, similar action was initiated following complaints that they favoured a particular party.

Faleiro confident

Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro remarked that he was not sure whether the high turnout was due to an urge for a change or the “money power” witnessed in the elections. Contacted at his Margao residence on Saturday morning, the Chief Minister said he was confident of a Congress-NCP alliance win. “This is the sixth time I am contesting elections. Our alliance will win,” he said.

BJP's Chief Ministerial aspirant Manohar Parrikar told The Hindu that the high voter turnout was expected. “Take it from me, this wave will completely wipe out some stalwarts of the ruling alliance.”

The main contest is between the ruling Congress-NCP alliance and the Bharatiya Janata Party-MGP alliance. The Trinamool Congress has fielded 20 candidates in its maiden entry in Goa's politics. Other parties such as the Samajwadi Party, the Samajwadi Janata Party, the Republican Party of India, the Janata Dal-Secular are also contesting along with regional parties such as the Goa Vikas Party and the United Goan Democratic party.

Apart from a large number of Congress rebels and a few BJP rebels, village groups have come together under the banner of the Zagrut Goenkarancho Ekvott and fielded 10 independent candidates.