Over two months have already passed since the model code of conduct for the elections to the Lok Sabha and by-elections to four Assembly seats has come into force.
The attempt made by the State government to have the code relaxed in South Goa has been turned down by the Election Commission of India. The government had sought the relaxation as it had wanted to get started on the annual pre-monsoon works, but now, with just a week between the relaxation of the code and the beginning of the monsoon, there won’t be time to get the State prepared for the rains. So are we facing waterlogging in the State at heightened intensity?
Another issue that is crying for a solution and which has also got held back by code of conduct is the construction of the parallel road at Cortalim to ease the traffic congestion on National Highway 66. The construction plan for the parallel road has been approved, but the financial approval has not come due to the poll code. Even if it comes after the code is lifted later this month, the monsoon will not permit construction of the road to be taken up. As motorists get caught up in traffic jams, the government had a brilliant idea of opening up the Agassaim ferry ramp to allow vehciles to be ferried across the river to Cortalim and vice versa in cases of emergencies. But, how will the vehicles reach the ferry ramp? Don’t they have to traverse the same stretch of road to reach the river bank?
The poll code of conduct has been affecting the works of the people, slowing down development and putting on hold projects. These long breaks in governance are affecting the people and daily administration.
Against this background the debate surrounding the suggestion by the Centre to have simultaneous polls for the Lok Sabha and the State Legislatures so as to avoid the constant codes of conduct that put a pause to government work could be a solution. If this can be considered, can there also be a thought given to avoiding by-polls that are forced upon the electorate due to resignations of MLAs and MPs on flimsy grounds? That of course would be difficult to come about, as when the system is such that it benefits the politicians, will they themselves create legislation to curb their freedom of jumping from party to party? Goa has luckily avoided another spell of an election code of conduct for the by-elections to Mandrem and Shiroda Assembly constituencies, as these polls were clubbed with the Lok Sabha elections, though the period that the seats remained vacant exceeded the six-month period.
But the State was not so lucky two years ago. There was a peculiar situation in 2017, the year when Goa elected a new Legislative Assembly. That code of conduct lasted over two months and weeks later there was another code of conduct for the panchayat polls, followed a couple of months later by the code of conduct for the by-elections in Panjim and Valpoi forced by the resignations of the MLAs of the two constituencies. While the 2017 by-polls had been held to allow the Chief Minster Manohar Parrikar to take a seat in the Legislative Assembly by getting elected from the Panjim constituency, the Valpoi by-election was because Vishwajit Rane had quit from the Congress to join the BJP.
Such long periods of a hiatus in development cannot be allowed to continue. Simultaneous polls is an issue that the next government has to consider seriously. It could allow policy to be formulated, announcements to be made, projects to be undertaken for five years without interuption. It does sound like a possible solution.