Over 11 lakh Goans will cast their votes on Friday in the state assembly election which will witness a multi-cornered contest between the major contenders: the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.
Voting across 1,642 polling booths in the coastal state will begin at 7am and end at 5pm.
Out of the 251 candidates contesting for the 40 assembly constituencies, the BJP is fielding for 36, Congress 37 and the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party 39 seats.
A changed scenario from the previous elections in 2012 when the confident BJP was given a tough fight by the incumbent Congress and very little influence of regional parties could be seen, the 2017 elections in Goa are dipped in the shades of black and white.
But the competition becomes interesting and difficult to judge only with the entrance of the newly formed alliance between Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) mentored by former Goa RSS chief Subhash Velingkar and the Shiv Sena, which are contesting the elections in 26, 5 and 3 seats respectively.
It is this alliance that can make or break the existence of the ruling BJP in Goa. Some 58 independent candidates and small regional parties are also in the fray in this election.
No major national issues dominated the election campaigning this year and almost all parties focussed on local issues such as better roads, development, infrastructure amongst others. The issue regarding the medium of instruction and the demand for special status to the state were highlighted by the Shiv Sena only towards the end of the campaigning.
Also, while the BJP projected defence minister Manohar Parrikar as the chief ministerial candidate during the campaigning, Congress did not announce any name until the end. The AAP, on the other hand, has used corruption and mining scams as its election agenda and projected Elvis Gomes, a retired bureaucrat from the state, as its CM candidate.
The alliance between MGP, GSM and Shiv Sena will be targeting the traditional Hindu majority votes of the state eating into the BJP’s share. By selecting Gomes, the AAP could swing the Catholic minority of the state which accounts for 26% in its favour and eat into the votes in the Congress’ kitty.
Though there have been no reports of violence during polling around 50 companies of paramilitary troops have been deployed by the Election Commission to ensure that the day passes off smoothly.
“Goa hardly has any incidents of violence being reported on the day of polling. But there have been cases in the past wherein some local leaders have tried to influence people. We will be taking care of these instances and therefore have our eyes set on Cortalim, St Cruz and Velium assembly constituencies,” chief electoral officer Kunal said.
The two district administrations have also imposed Section 144 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973 from 5pm to 9 pm from February 2 to February 4 in all the assembly constituencies. Candidates have been asked not to ply their campaign vehicles during the period and there is also a ban on the sale of liquor till February 5.