Goa Zilla Panchayat results a bellwether for Assembly polls, counting begins
Counting of votes for the 48 zilla (district) panchayat polls in Goa has begun with the fate of 200 candidates from the ruling BJP, the opposition Congress and regional parties like the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Aam Aadmi Party hanging in balance.
Voting passed off peacefully on Saturday but witnessed a sluggish turnout as the fear of the pandemic, the huge gap between the campaign and the actual voting as well as a general disillusionment left its impact.
The state witnessed a voter turnout of 56.82% with 4.50 lakh of the 7.92 lakh eligible voters having cast their vote, which was more than 10% less than the voting percentage at the previous zilla panchayat elections held five years ago.
The BJP has fielded 43 candidates in the 48 seats, the Congress has fielded 38, while the Aam Aadmi Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party has fielded 17 candidates each while 79 persons have contested as independent.
The district administration has issued prohibitive orders around the counting centres in a bid to prevent any law and order problems and large gatherings of persons that often results in clashes outside counting centres between supporters of rival political parties and candidates.
The polls were set to be held on March 22 and all preparations were in place and campaigning had concluded when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the one day ‘Janta curfew’-- a day long stay at home request-- which forced the Goa government to postpone polls, initially for two days, then indefinitely.
The polls are also seen as a test of Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing protests against coal, the failure to restart mining and related issues. Both the BJP and the Congress have expressed confidence that they will emerge victorious at the hustings.
With the zilla panchayat bodies performing only a nominal role, the polls are seen more as a preliminary test for political parties ahead of the state assembly elections, which are likely to be held a little more than a year later in early 2022.