On Saturday, Goa will vote in elections that will test CM Sawant’s popularity
Goa will be belatedly going to the polls to elect a total of 50 candidates for the zilla (district) parishad constituencies in what is proving to be a challenge for political parties to inspire voters to come out and vote during the pandemic.
The ruling BJP, the opposition Congress, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Aam Aadmi Party have all put candidates at the polls who have suffered a huge gap between the campaign and the actual vote. However, political observers will closely monitor the elections to assess the state of mind before the state assembly elections in early 2022. The Goa Forward Party has not put up any candidates at the polls.
More than a poll to elect the district panchayats, the polls are seen as a massive test of Goa Prime Minister Pramod Sawant’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing protests against coal, the lack of restarting mining, among other related issues.
The elections were scheduled for March 22 with all preparations and the campaign concluded until the prime minister announced a one-day ‘Janta curfew’ that forced the Goan government to postpone the elections. The polls initially stalled for two days before being postponed indefinitely.
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The nine-month gap has left political parties and their candidates worried that people may not even remember who they were when the campaign ended in March.
While the BJP has put forward 43 candidates in the 48 seats due to vote on Saturday, Congress has put forward 38, while the Aam Aadmi Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party have put forward 17 candidates each. There are 79 independent candidates in the fray.
The BJP and Congress have expressed confidence that voters will vote for their respective parties
“We are confident of winning these elections. There is tangible support for the BJP due to the development projects undertaken by our government, ”said Bharatiya Janata state party chairman Sadanand Shet Tanavade.
The opposition Congress, for its part, said the people were fed up with the incompetence of the ruling BJP and would use the elections to teach the ruling administration a lesson.
“Goa is going through a difficult period and our economic situation is bad. You can see the number of protests in Goa against the government’s decisions. This will be reflected in the election results, ”said opposition leader Digambar Kamat.
Goa has 50 seats for the polls, but one candidate was declared elected unopposed, while another vote was repealed after one of the disputed candidates died before elections could be held.
State Elections Commissioner Choka Ram Garg has said the authority has left no stone unturned to ensure the smooth and peaceful conduct of the elections, including facilities for Covid-19 patients or people in home quarantine to be able to vote.
However, political analysts have said the elections are nothing more than a weather vane for the government ahead of next year’s state assembly elections.
“For the ruling party, it will send important signals whether the ongoing protests against coal, the protests against the projects in the Mollem sanctuaries and the protests over the restart of mining have really changed the mood of the state or have not had no influence, “Kishor Naik Gaonkar, editor of a local Marathi daily, Goan Varta, said.
“The elections are of no more importance than giving important signals to the political parties so that the elections are held within a year,” he added.
The BJP has been trying to prove its worth in resuming mining and has pledged to cut coal handling at the port of Mormugao in a bid to ensure that the protests don’t affect the public psyche too much.