Elections to 186 village panchayats in Goa will be held Wednesday (August 10) and the counting of ballot paper votes Thursday (August 11). As many as 5,038 candidates contest not on party lines and more than 7 lakh people are eligible to cast their votes. So far, 64 candidates have been elected unopposed across the 186 panchayats going to polls.
Depending on the number of wards in each village panchayat, they may have up to 10 members including a sarpanch and a deputy sarpanch. Contestants in the fray position themselves as individuals or in panels that are supported by politicians from various parties. Many are known in their villages as close to a certain politician or as workers of a certain party.
Often the first step for many political aspirants, panels backed by MLAs have thrown their hat in the ring for the polls.
Congress MLA from the tourist hub of Calangute, Micheal Lobo has backed panels in Parra and Calangute in his stronghold of Bardez taluka. The panels seeking votes under the banners ‘Together for Parra’ and ‘Together for Calangute’ bear no party symbols on their social media posts seeking votes but bear a picture of Lobo.
During the Legislative Assembly election held in February, Lobo, who had quit the BJP but was yet to join the Congress, had started a ‘Together for Bardez’ movement and begun seeking votes for his wife and now Siolim MLA Delilah Lobo and Saligao MLA Kedar Naik. Delilah is the former sarpanch of the Parra village panchayat.
Lobo released the manifesto of the ‘Together for Calangute’ panel last week. Among the 34 promises made by the panel are free manure for kitchen gardens for residents to grow their own vegetables and a cell in the panchayat to help youth find employment in the hotels and restaurants in Calangute.
In the Mandrem constituency, former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who left the BJP ahead of the last assembly election and contested as an independent but lost, said that he had not backed any candidates but many of those contesting the panchayat polls are known to voters as “Parsekar’s man” and that has an “impact”, and they are expected to win, he said.
Parsekar’s nemesis and former BJP MLA from the Mandrem Dayanand Sopte said that of the nine panchayats in Mandrem, panels backed by him may win in seven panchayats.
Jit Arolkar, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) MLA from Mandrem, said that many of their supporters were contesting from various wards of Village Panchayats. “There are no party symbols and each one is contesting on the basis of their work and their capability. There are no panels that I have but some of our party workers are contesting the polls and we will definitely extend our support to them,” Arolkar told reporters on Monday.
In South Goa’s Quepem taluka, Maria Fernandes is a third-time contestant in the election of the Village Panchayat of Xeldem. This time from ward number 3, she has seven competitors. “I am not afraid of anyone. I will fight,” she told reporters during her door-to-door campaign visits last week. The campaigning came to an end last Wednesday.
Of the 186 panchayats going to polls, 89 are in South Goa and 97 are in North. Polling will be held across 1,464 wards in these panchayats. The total number of registered voters is 7,97,020 of which 3,87,001 are men and 4,10,018 are women and one voter in the Tiswadi taluka in North Goa, registered as the third gender.
The villages of Goa are also home to its tourist belt and many upscale hotels and resorts. Village panchayats that function as the local bodies control various permissions and licenses for construction, restaurants, and shops and also issue no-objection certificates for water and electricity connections, road cutting and establishments including bars and wine shops. The panchayats also govern villages in Goa’s coastal belt and its elite pin codes that offer pristine views that have over the years become home to many plush residences owned by the rich and the famous. The local body also collects panchayat tax.