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Chance For Goans To Elect The Best

Goans will elect their new 40 representatives in the Assembly today from among 251 contestants. Of the candidates, 28 have educational qualification below standard eight, including one who is illiterate; 56 have passed standard ten and 43 standard twelve. Though Goa has about 90% literacy rate, voters not always in the past have gone by educational qualification to elect a representative. Caetano Silva and Francisco Pacheco, who dropped out of school after fifth standard, were chosen by voters of Benaulim and Nuvem respectively as their MLAs in the last elections. This time Miguel Rodrigues, an independent candidate in Cortalim is illiterate. It seems ironical that persons even without any education can contest elections, while those seeking the lowest government jobs are required to have passed at least tenth standard. The irony gets deeper when you think that the duty of the elected representatives is to debate and frame laws, while that of lowest government staff is to carry out jobs which requires no application of mind. Candidates without the basic qualifications required for the lowest rung of government staff are not all independents; even national parties have such nominees. Over 50 per cent of the candidates have not gone to college.
The Aam Aadmi Party has nominated 24 candidates who possess degree qualification or above, the Bharatiya Janata Party 20, the Congress 14 and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party 10. Percentagewise, the Goa Suraksha Manch has the highest number of candidates possessing degree or above qualification, five of its total six. Quite a few independent candidates and nominees of smaller parties too have degree qualifications or above. The Goans have a choice to choose their representatives from among educated and not so educated. It would be interesting to watch how many with degree or above qualification and how many who never went to college get elected by our highly literate electorate this time.
Apart from less or high education, there is the factor of criminal record of the candidates. There are 38 candidates with criminal cases against them, including 19 with serious charges. There are two candidates who have been charged with crimes against women. Candidates with serious criminal charges belong to four major political parties: Congress, 6, BJP, 3, MGP, 2, United Goans Party, 2, Goa Forward, 1 and Nationalist Congress Party, 1. AAP is the only party which does not have a single candidate without serious criminal charge. Four independents also carry crime tags on them. The St Andre constituency has been declared a red alert constituency, as three candidates in the fray face criminal charges against them. It has been a trend in the political system to target those with criminal cases, particularly those belonging to the opposition camp to silence them. Those who carry crime tag and get elected have to spend considerable time in defending themselves as a result of which they fail to devote attention to the problems affecting their constituencies. Such public representatives also find themselves handicapped in exposing the wrongs of the party in power as the cases against them are used to silence them. It is not always that the cases against politicians or public figures are genuine and the cases linger for years, if not decades. At the same time, we have the disturbing trend of more and more criminals entering politics. Though the Supreme Court has issued directions that the cases against persons in public life should be disposed of within a specific time frame, the ground reality suggests otherwise.
It is necessary that the Representation of People’s Act be amended to provide for minimum educational qualification and also bar those against whom charges have been framed by a court from contesting elections. As Goa, like the rest of India, has made a rapid progress in the educational field with the percentage of educated law-makers going up considerably over the years the electoral laws need to be amended to be in sync with the reality by preventing ‘rogue’ elements from contesting the polls and getting elected using foul means. This will not only help create a level playing field for all candidates but also give people plenty of space to elect capable and clean people, which in turn will go a long way in cleansing the rot that has set in the electoral system. Today, on the day of polling, it is left to the people to choose clean and competent candidates without falling prey to the baits offered by unscrupulous contestants. The Goans have got an opportunity to elect the best from among the lot to rid the politics and administration of the state of the several ills that afflict them.

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