first_imgPANAJI: The by-election in the Panaji and Valpoi Assembly constituencies in Goa on Wednesday recorded nearly 75% voting. The ruling BJP and the Congress both expressed confidence that they would win the seats.In Panaji, the voter turnout was 70%, much lower than the 77.06% turnout recorded in the February 4 Assembly election. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who had said all along that he was looking to win the election with a big margin, admitted that a lower turnout would reduce his winning margin. At a press conference at the BJP headquarters on Wednesday, Mr. Parrikar complained about the behaviour of Mahila Congress president Pratima Coutinho and others during the election process, and said the turnout had been poor in the rival party’s areas. He expressed confidence, however, of winning the bypoll with a good margin. “Voting percentage was low because the other side had no traction,” Mr. Parrikar said. He claimed that around 98% of the BJP’s voters had cast their votes in both constituencies.In Panaji, Mr. Parrikar was facing the Congress’s Girish Chodankar and Goa Suraksha Manch’s Anand Shirodkar. Election Commission officials attributed the comparatively low turnout in Panaji to the Ganesh festival, which will begin on Friday.Polling ended at 7 p.m., and according to the Chief Electoral Officer, the voting percentage in Valpoi was 79.80, as against the 86.29% turnout recorded in February. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane is contesting against the Congress’s Roy Naik in the constituency.Polling was by and large peaceful, barring two minor altercations in each constituency. Mr. Parrikar said he was satisfied with the conduct of the poll authorities, even as the Congress alleged that election officials were biased in favour of the BJP.Mr. Chodankar told reporters on Wednesday, “In Panaji, I was fighting alone, while Mr. Parrikar was backed by his ministers and the poll officials. It was not a fair contest.”He said that in Panaji, the altercation between former BJP MLA Sidharth Kuncolienkar and Ms. Coutinho was not handled well by poll officials. “They shoved around our women workers and the poll officials failed to act swiftly and justly,” he said. Mr. Chodankar also claimed that voters in Panaji and Valpoi had voted for change, and in anger. “People want change. They will throw out the Chief Minister and the Health Minister. We are confident of winning both seats,” the All India Congress Committee secretary said.Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Subhash Velingkar said the RSS cadre had not worked for Mr. Parrikar.“RSS workers will not vote for him, and our Anand Shirodkar will win this election, with a small margin,” Mr. Velingkar said. Mr. Velingkar had rebelled against the RSS ahead of the February Assembly election over the medium of instruction in primary schools. He later returned to the RSS fold, and continues to mentor the regional outfit of the Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM). However, the GSM is opposing the BJP-led government over its continuation of grants to English media primary schools and other issues, like government patronage to casinos in the Mandovi river.Counting of votes in both constituencies will be held on Monday.last_img

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