What does Goa's new voter want?

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#2022 Assembly Elections, #2022 Goa Assembly Elections, #2022 Goa Assembly Polls, #First time voters, #Goa, #Voter demands, #youth

Of the over 11.56 lakh people eligible to vote in the 2022 Goa Assembly election, 30,599 are first-time voters.

December 9, 1963. That day 59 years ago, 2,60,372 Goans walked into polling booths to vote for the state’s first assembly elections. All 2,60,372 were first-time voters of an independent Goa. One of them was 22-year old Harishchandra Nagvekar, a Madgaon resident. Nagvekar is 80 now. He does not remember much about the chaos of a polling station nor of the political shenanigans of the 1963 elections. He, however, vividly remembers his expectations from the first state government.

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“My hopes were very simple – statehood for Goa and a little development. Statehood, of course, was all that I wanted when I voted on December 9, 1963, for the 30-member assembly,” Nagvekar uttered in a shaky voice. He is ready to vote again. And there’s hope in his heart again. For different reasons.

Goa is ready to go to polls again on February 14 and this time 11,56,404 registered voters will elect 40 members for the legislative assembly. The count of the state’s first-time voters for the February election is 30,599 that includes 14,512 in the 18-19 age group, according to Narayan Sawant, Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Goa.

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Nagvekar’s expectations from the state government were very limited. But 59 years later, the expectations of the first-time voters are many and varied. In one long breath, engineering student Atharv (he requested that we only use his first name), 20, talks of stability, death to political horse-trading, Goa’s debt burden, economic zones, IT Parks, education, renewable energy, medical infrastructure. These are not merely vexing issues in his mind, he also has tentative solutions to each.

“First thing, stability. Why are elected representatives bartering their political affiliations? Why isn’t there ideological commitment? Why is there horse-trading?” Atharv asks.

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Next, he talks about Goa’s state debt that has jumped 52% in the last three years and the imminent need to appoint a Lokayukta. Atharv wants the new government to spend more on education, especially in the primary education sector, create new jobs, set up hospitals in each taluka, pay heed to the benefits of renewable energy and set up IT Parks and special economic zones. “The new government should take more responsibility,” Atharv says.

Aditi Mascarenhas, 19, an under-graduate student, speaks for the marginalised, especially those with minimum or no access to fundamental necessities. “Internet access is the key,” Aditi says. “The pandemic has crippled the education system and those with no internet access are lagging. When the new government is the sworn in, the pandemic will still be hanging over our heads. Fix the system. Give the marginalised access to basics,” Aditi asks of politicians who get elected. She is also incredulous about the pre-poll promises that political parties make. “I study economics and know how flawed the notion of unending doles is. It is bad for the state, in the long run, it is bad for the people,” Aditi says, referring to the slew of sops that all political parties have announced in a run-up to the election.

While Atharv and Aditi have more concrete asks, Manali Naik, 19, an electrical engineering student at IIT-Goa, is looking for truth. “I’ll vote for the first time but I do not want to vote for a liar,” Manali says.

Manali adds she wishes for safety of women and better environmental policies. “I want to go out more often but cannot because it just does not feel safe. If only the new government could install more CCTV cameras in public places and the police takes reports of misdoing and misconduct a little more seriously, she says and hopes those at the helm to will pay more heed to rural development. “Goa is not only about urban areas and privileged people. There is a large marginalised strata that the politicians forget about as soon as the elections are over,” Manali adds.

Mohammad Usman, 22, an undergrad degree holder, lives the torment of religious and social partiality. He completed his B.Com degree six months ago, has applied for a “million jobs” but nothing has come his way. “Why cannot the government create more jobs and make it a level-playing field? There’s corruption and partiality everywhere. Why are so many degree holders unemployed? The education system is such that some are actually unemployable. Political parties are offering free pilgrimages as poll sop but I, for one, just want more secular leaders and realities. And jobs and more jobs,” Usman says.

When the new state government is sworn-in, will the expectations of the first-time voters be fulfilled? Or, will they perish? Only time will tell.

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