AT A model booth in Panaji, election officer Ratnakar Mayekar, 46, waited for Rachi Dessai to finish her voting. Mayekar did not know Dessai. On his election roll, she was the last voter entitled to get the pink teddy bear he held in his hand.
Goa had 32,354 first-time voters this time, including 18,172 women, and the electoral office had mapped details of 327 of the latter who were to cast their votes in 40 model booths — one booth in each constituency to encourage first-time women voters. For Dessai, who has just turned 18, the choice of the teddy’s colour is confusing — her favourite colour is black — but she is happy, and now waited to get home to discuss the day with her parents.
Coming from a home where all four members have a “different opinion”, she said, “Last night, too, we debated till 1.30 am.” Concerned about the Goan identity, Dessai said, “Look around you; do you see women in floral printed dresses, or all of us, men and women, holding a bottle or drugs? For anyone who is from outside Goa, we seem to have been described a certain way. We in Goa are not like that. (So) we are trying to cast a vote to protect our identity.”
At another booth, Anusha Naik, 20, and a first-time voter, was in one of the ‘normal’, no-teddy-bear booths. “The nail looks horrible,” she said about the ink, after casting her vote, “but I am proud of it…. I think we can handle our waste better, people could also do with handling the politics better.”
The first-time male voters at some booths were provided pens, although it looked like a last-minute decision. Sargam Naikdessai. said issues such as medium of instruction in schools, “have no priority in my circles. English is needed today”.
“Pink polling booths showed an increase of 5 per cent among the average accounted in assembly,” said Chief Electoral Officer Kunal.