Tuesday 28 November 2023

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Politics | Lok Sabha '99

Heavy showers + dampened spirit = low turnout


Sudden downpour of heavy showers dampened the spirit of the Goan electorate further, who were not so enthusiastic even otherwise as they had faced the Assembly election just four months ago.

For the two seats here, prime contenders were former union minister Ramakant Khalap and Joaquim Alemao, brother of controversial minister Churchill Alemao for the Congress and Shripad Naik and Ramakant Angle for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Nationalist Congress Party and the Communist Party of India are also in the fray, besides a few independents, though it was basically a straight fight. Some of these other contestants however may hamper prospects of the prime contenders, especially the Congress.

May it be due to sudden rainfall which was pouring heavily throughout the day or due to some political factors, Goa recorded the lowest ever percentage at least in the last three decades. "It would be around 45 per cent this time", says Kewal Sharma, the chief electoral officer.

The Lok Sabha elections held last year had witnessed over 60 per cent voters exercising their franchise while it was around 56 per cent in 1996. Even the June Assembly polls had recorded around 65 per cent turnout.

Besides rains, Christian-dominated Salcete taluka in South Goa, which was a decisive factor for Congress candidate Alemao to win, witnessed much lower turnout compared to the rest of the BJP-dominated talukas.

In fact some of the BJP stronghold areas touched even 60 per cent though all the main cities and towns could not cross 40 per cent. It appeared that several Congress legislators did not take much interest in pulling out the voters to the booths, especially in Salcete.

Even some of the ministers were found resting at home in Salcete, hinting out clearly their displeasure over the candidate the ruling party has fielded. In fact, in spite of it being a Sunday, many voters preferred to walk home straight after the mass rather than visiting the polling booths.

The BJP leaders have already claimed that the turnout is a clear indication of their candidates winning both the seats. Incidentally, none of the prominent leaders were found on the road to get their comments.

Similar was the situation in North Goa, where the pro-BJP trend was clearly visible. Khalap himself brought down his margin from 30,000 to 10,000, admitting indirectly that it cannot be considered smooth sailing for him.

The trend in favour of the BJP was witnessed more strongly in North Goa, from where Khalap had lost last year's Parliamentary elections. He was pushed down to the third position by the BJP, which had lost to the Congress here by merely 420 votes.

R S Sahay, the director general of police, said the whole election was totally incident-free, compared to the ones held in the past. Despite of less police force available this time, he said the situation was handled quite successfully.

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