Over 8.98 lakh voters from among 11.10 lakh voters registered in the state turned out on Saturday to cast their vote to elect their 40 representatives in the Assembly, raising the voting percentage to 82.23, just 0.5 per cent above that in 2012. Election officials had worked hard to ensure a higher voter turnout and used various resources to bring voters to polling booths. The officials need to be more innovative the next time as the increase was not significant. As has been the case in the past, voting was by and large peaceful barring a few instances of minor clashes between supporters of rival parties. The turnout of women was much better than that of the men but the records did not mention anything specific about youth voting percentage that were a key target of EC campaign. Whatever might be presumed from the slightly higher voting percentage it appears that the response of the voters to the campaign of election authorities was lukewarm.
Twelve of the 19 constituencies in North Goa recorded more than 80 per cent or above voting percentage with the highest percentage of 89.14 in Sanquelim, beating the nearly 90 per cent record in Poriem in 2012. The least voting percentage at 77.06 was in Panaji. Only nine constituencies in the South Goa district recorded voting percentage of above 80 per cent, with Priol highest at 89.24 per cent. While other constituencies that had recorded less than 75 per cent votes during the previous elections managed to better the performance this time around, Curtorim had the distinction of having recorded just 67.38 per cent, which is the far below the state average. Three other constituencies – Vasco, Nuvem and Velim – recorded less than 75 per cent votes. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer had laid stress on attracting voters in these constituencies by creating awareness among them of the need to exercise their franchise and elect their representatives through ethical voting. The EC needs to do some serious rethinking on this.
In general, the higher turnout is an indication that Goans in most constituencies are concerned about their future and turned out at the polling stations to give verdict in favour of the party which they think would deliver the goods to them. Does higher voter turnout mean that the people of the state have voted for a change? Or does a higher voting percentage, in which women outnumbered men, mean the people (women who have been beneficiaries of various BJP government welfare schemes) have cast their votes to bring back the BJP to power? There is also possibility of people, including women being impressed by the promise of higher doles from the other political parties. Political parties have traditionally relied on the schemes implemented by them to beat anti-incumbency and return to power. The BJP, which implemented many social welfare schemes since it came to power, has relied on them to return to power, apart from showcasing works of infrastructure carried out by their government. As the BJP got response in the last two elections to its promises in the election manifestos, during 2012 Assembly elections and the 2014 parliamentary elections, other political parties too made promises of ‘higher returns’ to the people in their manifestos. It became a game to beat each other in making as many and as big promises as imagination could take them to.
However, in several constituencies despite tall promises by various parties, voters appear not to have been impressed to the extent they expected. The lukewarm response from voters should serve as a reminder to the election authorities that people cannot be lured to the polling booth by engaging icons, some of whom were willing to be put on the panel merely for the sake of glamour. It does not mean of course that the election authorities should give up motivating voters. However, the responsibility for enthusing voters must be shared by political parties. If the political parties are ethical and sincere about implementing the promises they make during the elections voters would not lose interest in elections or be indifferent. When all political parties break their promises after coming to power, it is quite natural for feelings to grow among voters that it was pointless voting for any party as they would do the same thing: that is, make big promises and not implement them after they get power. It should be the endeavour of the contesting parties to make elections attractive and meaningful by being worthy of the people’s trust, rather than of the Election Commission, whose role should be confined to ensuring peaceful, free and fair polling.