Goa recorded 72.15 per cent voting for both Lok Sabha Constituencies with North Goa at 78.86 per cent and South Goa at 75.17 per cent on Tuesday till evening. In Shiroda, Mapusa and Mandrem assembly seats, which went for by-polls, the polling percentage stood at 80.09%, 75.17% and 81.61% respectively.
“Overall it was a peaceful election. These are interim figures. We received complaints in the morning while we conducted a mock poll and VVPATs were replaced. During polls 11 CUs, 11 BUs and 35 VVPATs were replaced,” said Kunal, CEO, Goa state.
“The presiding officer and returning officer will file a report before the commission takes a decision,” said Kunal. The first complaint against faulty EVM was tweeted by Elvis Gomes, the AAP candidate in South Goa, after which officials rushed to the booth.
A specific complaint of polling agents with badges showing the name of BJP candidate and the party colour was received from a polling booth in north Goa. “The Collector office took cognisance and we have ensured they removed the badges,” confirmed Kunal. Goa saw 12 candidates fighting the Lok Sabha election with 11,36,113 voters cast their votes, with polling conducted in 1652 polling stations in north and 1127 polling stations.
While morning saw a sluggish start with a few booths in South Goa complaining of faulty EVMs, by evening, the percentage of voting across the state picked up, with the government announcement of a public holiday also helping to get people to come to vote. Overall, Goa voted for common indicators like development and employment opportunities, though resentment for “divisive statements” made by central leaders echoed across voting booths. At a few polling booths, the voters also expressed anger over candidates who jump parties, even though they come elected under a certain party symbol. In North Goa till 1 pm, while the mood was in favour with BJP camp, by late evening, the fight showed with people deciding between a sitting MP from BJP, Shripad Naik and first-time contestant Girish Chodonkar.
In Mapusa, which also went for by-polls —BJP had fielded the son of late Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza, named Joshua, hoping for “sympathy votes” with Congress fielding Sudhir Kandolkar, a former BJP politician.
Sachin Kitlekar, 42, at Mapusa echoed the public sentiment as he said, “Between BJP and Congress we have to choose a leader who can solve our basic demands. Here, the BJP MP is fighting for his fifth term with the voters not seeing any change. Our epicentre of Mapusa, the market, is also the point where the whole of North Goa comes to shop, and it catches fire every six months. If this is the definition of good infrastructure, what are we voting for? Besides, their candidate this time is a young boy who has no experience in by polls and a sitting MP who hasn’t visited us on any issues.”
Outside the booth —two women Aparna Kamat and Shubha Sawant were not pleased either. While Shubha said the democratic and cultural identity of Hindus were not given equal importance as that given to other religions, she added that her decision to vote also involved looking at the “character of the candidates” before she cast her final vote. Aparna, a teacher and once a BJP worker, but now was a regional party Goa Suraksha Manch supporter and was looking to see how the day’s trends progressed. “I moved to support a party led by Subash Velingkar who once upon a time was a mentor to Manohar Parrikar. Things changed over the years and we do not see any promise maintained by BJP. I moved to a party which continues to fight for what they originally intended, a good identity plank for Goans and for education.”
For 23-year-old businessman Mahableshwar Toraskar, the issue is more about unfulfilled promises made by the central government “The BJP government said during the 2014 Elections that it would build a Ram Mandir, but never did. But it is not like Ram ever stayed there, he went on vanvaas. I do not know why I should vote for the BJP now,” said the Mapusa resident.
The priority for Neale Perreira, a 60-year-old retired businessman, was electing a “good, clean government”. “We have had enough of corruption. It is time we had a non-corrupt government. In Goa, we have suffered from one party opposing what the government does but then doing the exact same thing when it is in power,” he said.
At Aldonha, the Figueiredo family had just returned from voting. Settled in a Catholic-dominated locality, for the Figueiredos, the “divisive rhetoric” was the only factor that disturbed them. “Frankly in Goa there is no buzz of Lok Sabha Elections. But we are watching the statements and events shaping in the North and this rhetoric is not acceptable to us. My vote will show that,” said Savio, 55, who runs the community pharmacy. His wife, who travels 16 kilometres one way everyday says even basic roads are unclean and garbage problem is a menace. “I pay taxes and nothing shows. My body aches riding bike everyday for such long distances. These statements then really make it worse.”Their daughter Deepika, 22, a first-time voter, said that she gets her news stories in 60 words through an app which gives her news in 60words everyday. She also googled every place she had a doubt. “I want our leaders to invest their time talking on quality education. Instead, they keep glorifying the death of soldiers on the borders. It’s politics and even though I am far from the north, I thought of the way they spoke of our soldiers when I cast the vote.”
In Goa, a quarter of the population follows Christianity and belts like Bardez and Salcete votes are influenced by the words of the state’s Archbishop. Earlier this month, the church had issued a statement adding, “As we stand on the threshold of Parliamentary Elections as well as by-elections in some our State constituencies, let us pray that our electorate will vote for the forces which empower the weak, the marginalised and the exploited, rather than those that corrupt, communalise, exploit and divide”.
Miguel Braganza, agriculturist says the Church might have an impact, but adds that unlike last Lok Sabha elections “there is no Modi wave, only undercurrents. And with the ruling party issuing statements across the campaign rallies of dividing India, Goa is listening.”
In the south at Shiroda where a regional party, a former ally of BJP is not supporting Congress the mood was no different. While many chose to go for “silent vote”, the general confusion between a BJP voter and Congress Voter showed as they had to vote for leaders who earlier supported a different ideology. “It is not whether I like MGP or Congress or BJP. It is who is the person who will not jump parties once elected. That is the probability I have to make,” says a staunch BJP supporter who is now voting for another party. The party is though unfazed adding that they are going to win, with the state leaders admitting off the record “minus Parrikar this looks tough but we will just about pull through”. It also didn’t help that former Chief Minister Laximkant Paresekar who voted at Mandrem openly criticised his own party after he came out of the booth. “By-elections are forced on people and they do not like it. The common man is angry and is likely to express this anger by voting against the candidate who has forced the bypoll. But overall, there is an impression for the Lok Sabha polls is that people want Narendra Modi back,” Parsekar told reporters. In Madrem, the bypoll was announced after the sitting Congress MLA Dayanand Sopte resigned to join BJP.
In another pocket in Bicholim, with mining as the main issue, voters finally said that the final word is for the candidate who opens the mines again. With the mines shut for six years and with employment nearly dead in the sector voters like Sandeep Naik, 38, said the influence of MPs will be put to test this election. “Our sitting MP Narendra Sawaikar could not even get an appointment with the Prime Minister for the last one year to discuss our plight. These events matter to us while deciding.” Naik who now has slowly shifted to open a small business as a private entrepreneur says he now is disillusioned, “I was tempted by a national scheme for entrepreneurs, but it is only when I started I realised benefits are given only after you show a certain turnover. For a first timer, the central policies are not conducive.”
Premanand Mahambare, a BJP leader who was doing his rounds in the mining belt remained unfazed. In South Goa, he was hoping AAP gets a better figure than last time. — “as it will be the number that will dent Congress,” he said. “In South Goa where 30 per cent of the population is minorities, Congress starts from there. So the AAP figures are very important.” In the North, he said the same details mattered. “Overall Goans and broad-minded and think of the nation first. Only in pockets where they think narrow on religion, we might need to worry. India is the safest country for Hindus and the voting will show across. We are very very confident.”
A total of 7474 disabled voters cast their vote at two separately set up polling stations in both the constituencies.