Punjab, Goa to Vote Today

CHANDIGARH / PANAJI: Punjab and Goa began voting this morning in crucial elections being held in five states all through this month and into the next. For the ruling BJP this is the first big electoral test after November’s notes ban. It is in power in both the states – in Punjab with partner Akali Dal. The Congress hopes to change that. Both parties also have to contend with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, which makes its debut in assembly elections in both Punjab and Goa. Goa began voting at 7 am and Punjab at 8.

Here are the 10 latest developments from voting in Punjab and Goa:

Punjab has 117 assembly seats, Goa has 40. Both states are voting in a single phase today. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who had led the BJP to victory in Goa in 2012 was one of the first people to vote this morning at around 7:30 am.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted this morning, “urging people of Punjab and Goa to turnout in record numbers and vote in the assembly elections.” He particularly urged young people to vote. The Akali Dal-BJP alliance has ruled Punjab for two straight terms which is ten years and both the Congress and AAP hope to benefit from an anti-incumbency sentiment.

The Congress and AAP have focused their attacks on the Badals – Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and deputy Sukhbir Badal – over alleged corruption and the drug menace in Punjab. They have also targeted Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia, a powerful minister in the state government.

Key contests today feature a direct fight between chief ministerial aspirants Parkash Singh Badal, 89, and Captain Amarinder Singh, 75, of the Congress in Lambi and a mega battle in Jalalabad between Sukhbir Badal and Bhagwant Singh Mann, seen as AAP’s leading contender for chief minister if the party wins.

The Congress officially named Captain Amarinder Singh as its presumptive chief minister last week. In January it acquired former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, whose negotiations to join Mr Kejriwal’s AAP fell through over not being positioned for the chief minister’s post.

In Goa, which has 40 assembly seats, the BJP hopes to form government again despite parting ways with partner Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) soon after elections were announced. The MGP, which has set up a three-party regional alliance, threatens to eat into BJP votes.

In 2012, the BJP had won 21 of the 40 seats, a majority on its own, with its partner adding three seats, and the party hopes to do that again. It has pitched stability to a state that has seen 10 chief ministers in 10 years. It has also dropped broad hints that Manohar Parrikar, pulled out for national duty in 2014 from his post of Goa chief minister, could make a comeback to his home state.

The Congress, which ruled Goa before Mr Parrikar led the BJP to the 2012 win, hopes to do much better than its 7 seats last time. AAP has fielded a former bureaucrat Elvis Gomes as presumptive Chief Minister and has promised “Fish for all.”

BJP will credit a win in these elections to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ban on 500-and 1000-rupee notes in November, aimed at eliminating black money. The opposition parties have attacked it on demonetisation, accusing it of pushing the poor into deeper distress with the cash crunch and slowdown of economic activity that has followed.
Next week, Uttar Pradesh will vote in the first of seven phases and Uttarkhand and Manipur will vote in single phases for a new government. Votes for all five states will be counted on March 11.

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