Goa will vote on Monday to decide the fate of 301 candidates who are in the fray for 40 Assembly seats, for which all preparations have been made. Traditionally a state with bipolar politics, Goa is witnessing a multi-cornered contest this time, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and other smaller parties vying to make a mark on the state's electoral scene.
To check the spread of COVID-19, voters will be provided hand gloves at the polling stations, an election official said, adding that more than 100 'all-women' polling booths were set up in the state for the convenience of female voters. As many as 81 flying squads were operational across the coastal state, he said. The prominent candidates include Chief Minister Pramod Sawant (BJP), Leader of the Opposition Digambar Kamat (Congress), former CMs Churchill Alemao (TMC), Ravi Naik (BJP), Laxmikant Parsekar (independent), former deputy CMs Vijai Sardesai (GFP) and Sudin Dhavalikar (MGP), late CM Manohar Parrikar's son Utpal Parrikar and AAP's CM face Amit Paleker. Over 11 lakh people are eligible to cast their votes on Monday. The counting of votes will take place on March 10.
Chief Electoral Officer Kunal said the average number of eligible voters per booth in the state is 672, which is the lowest in the country. "The Vasco Assembly constituency has the highest number of 35,139 eligible voters, while the Mormugao seat has the lowest number of voters at 19,958," he said. The Congress and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) are fighting the election in alliance, while the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC has tied-up with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) to contest the polls.
The Shiv Sena and the NCP had also announced their pre-poll alliance, while the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP is contesting without a tie-up with any other political party. The Revolutionary Goans, Goencho Swabhimaan Party, Jai Mahabharat Party and Sambhaji Brigade are also in the poll fray, besides 68 independent candidates
Kunal said that the required manpower and machinery have been deployed at the polling booths, as per guidelines of the Election Commission of India. “We are committed to ensure there is a level-playing field for all candidates. We are also monitoring the preparations by all polling officers," he said. There are 105 all-women polling booths, also called as the 'pink booths'. “Earlier, we used to have one pink booth in every constituency,” the official said.
There are eight polling booths managed by differently-abled people, while 11 are eco-friendly booths (discouraging use of plastic), he said, and appealed to all the voters to come out and exercise their franchise. "Various agencies seized Rs 11.48 crore during surveillance to prevent the misuse of money in the run up to the polls," Kunal said. The state had recorded 82.56 per cent turnout during the 2017 elections. The Congress had at that time won 17 seats, while the BJP bagged 13.
The BJP had then quickly stitched up an alliance with some regional outfits and independents to form government in the state. The BJP, which has not entered into any pre-poll alliance this time, is trying to retain power in the coastal state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, among others, campaigned for the saffron party in Goa in the last one month. Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is the BJP's election in-charge in the state.
The Congress has fielded 37 candidates, while its ally GFP has fielded three. Senior Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi campaigned for the party in the coastal state. Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram has been looking after Congress' poll strategy along with senior leader Dinesh Gundu Rao.
With PTI Inputs