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Large voters’ turnout spells good for democracy in Punjab and Goa

By Shankar Kumar

February 5, 2017

Pro-change wave in Punjab, Goa may go to BJP again

Amid tight security, the Election Commission’s close watch which included large scale use of CCTV cameras in voting booths, polls conducted for Punjab’s 117 assembly seats and Goa’s 40 assembly seats, remained largely peaceful. Due to glitches in Electronic Voting Machines in some places in Punjab, though, some tense moments were witnessed in the state, yet elections passed on without any major disturbances. In Punjab, where voting started at 8 am, as many as 70 per cent voters participated the assembly polls. On the other hand, in Goa where poll began at 7 am, more than 83 per cent voters had cast their votes till 5 pm by pressing EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines). This turnout of voters in Goa broke last election record of 81.7 per cent. Undergoing a single phase election, both the states witnessed uncanny resemblance on many fronts: the AAP was a new entrant in both the states; multi-cornered contests, instead of usual bi-polar fight were held in both the states; youth, comprising 60 per cent of the total electorates turned out in large number to cast their votes in the election in Punjab and Goa. Despite these similarities, the election was full of competitive politics as, among major contenders, none was prepared to cede his or her ground to other on all issues concerning people. Even SAD-BJP combine that appeared pushed to the wall, in comparison to its rivals from the Congress and the AAP in most of places, recovered some of grounds in Doaba and Majha which together send 48 out of the total 117 assembly seats in Punjab. Therefore, to predict clearly as to who would form the next government in Punjab, is fraught with danger. In contrast, this confusion was not there in Goa where the BJP, playing Manohar Parrikar card very smartly, was seen trying to control damage it faced on account of leadership issue.

Interesting facts of Punjab, Goa assembly polls

First time voters in 40 selected polling stations in Goa were given pink teddy bears by the Election Commission. In order to encourage first time female voters in this small state, over a three dozen polling stations were decorated with pink balloons, pink table cloths, pink walls and interestingly, even polling officials were seen wearing pink clothes. As many as 32, 354 first time voters cast their votes in the Goa assembly election. Similarly, first time voters in Punjab were handed over certificates by the Election Commission. For 117 assembly seats, 1,145 candidates were in the fray in Punjab. Of them, there were only 81 female candidates while one belonged to the third gender. Yet all eyes were glued to Punjab’s Lambi, Jalalabad and Amritsar east assembly seats. State Chief Minister and SAD’s tall political figure Prakash Singh Badal was contesting from Lambi. To make it look like a royal battle, Congress’ chief ministerial face and scion of Patiala royal family Captain Amrinder Singh also contested from Lambi. AAP fielded from this constituency Jarnail Singh, the ex-Dainik Jagran reporter who came to lime light after he hurled a shoe at Congress leader P Chidambaram during a press conference in New Delhi in April 2009. Jalalabad was another assembly constituency which witnessed high voltage fight between SAD candidate and Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, AAP’s Bhagwant Mann and Congress’ Ravneet Singh Bittu (grandson of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh). Amritsar East was yet another star assembly constituency as former BJP MP turned Congress candidate Navjot Singh Sidhu was contesting from this seat. In turn, it was Goa’s Mandrem constituency which was the centre of royal battle. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar was locked in a fierce contest with Congress’s Dayanand Sopte, AAP’s Devendra Krishnaji and MGP’s Shridhar Ladu Manjrekar from this constituency. Mapusa was another constituency where media attention was there from the beginning. Goa Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’ Souuza was contesting a tough battle against his Congress rival Vijay Bikhe, APP’s Shradha Khalap and MGP’s Vinod Phadke, who is facing corruption charges.

Electoral indications

Brisk and heavy polling in Goa assembly election has thrown a clear indication that the BJP may retain power in the state. Although, the same can’t be said about Punjab with any surety, even as the state witnessed record turnout of people for voting. The SAD-BJP combine which appeared losing grounds across Punjab, recovered some momentum in the last few days of campaigning. In that way, it would be hard to say as to what the large turnout of voters meant either for the Congress or the AAP. But definitely, both Punjab and Goa are not going to see hung assembly and this is what assembly polls suggest in clear terms.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

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