Saturday 17 August 2019

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Politics | Assembly '99

'Silent' voting tomorrow

 

Silence is the key word as Goa is all set for India’s first state-wide "electronic polling" tomorrow.

The polling stations would be actually silent. No rustle of the ballot papers or the thumping of voting stamps. You enter the booth, check your number and go and press the button before the symbol you desire to vote for. The feather touch would decide who would ultimately rule.

The story of silence does not end here. It is also the silent voter who would ultimately "speak out" electronically what kind of government Goans deserve. Though politicians used all sorts of propaganda methods for the fortnight, opinion of this silent voter would finally matter.

"If it does not rain, even those who normally do not vote may turn up at the polling station, merely out of curiosity for the electronic voting machine", feels Kewal Sharma, the chief electoral officer. In that case, the increased polling percentage would make all the predictions upside down.

The police machinery is also relieved a bit because the possibility of booth capturing is remote. The voting unit does not function unless the polling officer presses the control unit for the next vote. "The criminals need to go hi tech for that", quips DGP R S Sahay in a lighter vein.

The law and order machinery is however fully prepared to face any eventuality, with the army of 3000 personnel, including 15 companies of para-military forces. Dividing 40 constituencies into 11 zones, they have already started rounding up the suspected troublemakers with a criminal background.

Constituencies represented by former ministers like Churchill Alemao from Benaulim, Somnath Zuwarkar from Taleigao (part of Panaji city) and Victoria Fernandes of St Cruz are being identified hyper-sensitive, besides locating several booths in 20 other segments as sensitive.

"With Congress appearing desperate and the forces of the MGP and the BJP - former alliance partners - being divided, we are leaving no stone unturned as it is a different kind of battlefield this time", admits Sahay.

To co-ordinate electioneering at 1111 polling stations in 39 constituencies (except Loutolim which Congress won unopposed), the election office has also pressed services of all kind of modern equipment like cellular phones, wireless sets, fax machines and even additional phones, besides well-equipped mobile vehicles for the observers.

Sector area officers would also be armed with spare electronic voting machines, in case of any failure while machine repairing machinery is also being kept ready for emergency purpose. Goa is the first state which is using EVMs for the whole electioneering purpose.

Besides live demonstrations and educating the voter about use of the EVMs through pamphlets and newspaper advertisements, the election office has also effectively countered the misinformation being spread by some politicians regarding the modern technique.

Reacting to the newspaper reports that former chief minister Luizinho Faleiro is warning people that the EVM would tell him who had voted for whom, the election office has been continuously countering such false propaganda.

Dr Kashinath Jalmi, former opposition leader, is perhaps the only politician who has utilised the EVM to effectively win over the voters. Preparing a replica of the EVM which beeps and lights, he has reached semi-educated OBC voters in his constituency to teach them how to use the machine.

Advertisements by several candidates appearing in the newspapers now appeal to the voter not to vote but to "press the button" before the respective symbol. The BJP has in fact prepared an advertisement, which would hit the front pages tomorrow, appealing them to ‘hit the right button’, showing the party symbol on the EVM.

It appears to be a neck-to-neck battle between the Congress, the BJP and the MGP, besides two more regional outfits - the United Goans Democratic Party and the Goa Rajiv Congress. The rebel Congressmen, contesting as independents, have also changed the picture in several constituencies.

Whether it is union home minister L K Advani or the AICC secretary Ramesh Chennithala, they claim to gain absolute majority. But the local party leaders admit in private that they are fully prepared to face the hung Assembly and form their government, without engineering defections.






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Assembly '99

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