Goa votes today for two new Members of Parliament and three Members of the Legislative Assembly.
While the election for the MPs is a regular general election that occurs every five years, two of the Assembly seats for which voting is taking place are due to resignations of MLAs who switched sides and are now recontesting on different party tickets, while the third is due to the death of an MLA. MPs Shripad Naik and Narendra Sawaikar are seeking to return to the Lok Sabha, while former Congress MLAs Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte are seeking endorsement as MLAs on different party tickets from the one on which they were elected two years ago.
While most of the main candidates in the fray are known faces, it is in Mapusa, where elections are being held due to the death of former Dy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza, that a fresh face is certain to be elected as all the candidates are new to politics. In Shiroda the three main contenders are former MLAs and ministers seeking to make a comeback to the Legislative Assembly, while in Mandrem, a former MLA is challenged by new faces.
On an election day that Goa would otherwise be focused on who will be the new MPs, the focus shifts to the by-elections, and the interest generated is not restricted to the constituencies that will be voting, but across the State. Crucial to the stability of Goa’s government will be the results to the three by-elections, and a fourth in Panjim that will take place on May 19. BJP that leads the government and the Congress that is sitting in opposition have 14 MLAs each, and victories for their candidates in the by-polls will ensure that any one of these parties becomes the single largest party in the Assembly.
Congress, that had 17 of its candidates elected in the 2017 Assembly elections, has time and again reiterated that it should be called to form the government due to its single largest party status. The defections from the Congress and the split in the MGP has ensured that BJP and the opposition party currently remain at par in the Assembly, but the by-poll results have the potential to change this equation and upset the balance of power.
The critical question is, which way will that balance of power tilt? While an answer to that will come a month from now, on May 23 when the votes are counted, that result will depend on how the electorate votes today. Will Goa return the defectors to the Legislative Assembly or will it stand rigid on the principles of democracy and oust those who betrayed their party and sought a future in another?
Goa needs to clean up its politics, and this is one election where a start can be made by showing the door to those who have not and do not stand by their solemn word. It may be just three by-elections – and a fourth later next month – but it could be a loud statement nevertheless that Goa makes by silently voting to give the State the legislators it deserves.
To go out and vote we all must. But is it also important to make every vote a statement. A principled stand by the voters in the by-polls will convey to politicians and political parties that Goans do not condone party hopping. And when the entire State votes for their new MPs, they must also ensure that the persons who will be sent to New Delhi, will take with them the aspirations of the people of the State, and convey these in the hallowed halls of Parliament. Goa needs a voice in Parliament, a voice that will be loud and clear, speaking fearlessly in defence of Goa.