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History of Elections

The scheme of elections in Portuguese Goa was familiarized in the year 1821 and sustained until 1961, the year which witnessed Goa’s incorporation into the Indian Union. The colonial history of Portuguese Goa from 1821 to 1961 shows that elections to the Parliament of Portugal were conducted in Goa for a major part of this period, except for two short pauses, from 1895 to 1900 and from 1926 to 1945. A section of Goans were permitted to share political space in spheres of public administration; municipal, parochial, legislative or the government councils, the colonial council and the presidential elections of Portuguese dominion during the republican period. Though the Portuguese policy was largely colonial and exclusive, the system of election and representative institutions marked a change in politics and public administration. The monarch of Portugal directed the administration of the colony through its central agencies and their representatives; the viceroy or the governor, his support staff, as well as the allegiance sought from the religious authorities. It may be noted that local administration in Goa was positioned to suit the administrative convenience of the Portuguese.

As an overseas colony of Portugal, Portuguese India or Estado da India was made eligible to participate in the system of representation. A new system of administration was now introduced in the Portuguese dominions which reflected promising essence of the system of representation. Consequently, Goans too experienced the expected political process of conducting elections and represent their interests in the Côrtes, as well as to participate in the local administration of the colony. The promising Portuguese legislations of the 19th century, driven from foreign influences across Europe had the effect of catapulting a section of the “qualified voter‟ of Portuguese India to participate in the process of representative institutions of the metropolis as well as its local administrative bodies. The elections in Goa were not always quaint affairs. The period was pervaded by complaints against malpractices from various stakeholders in elections, at all levels of administration; parochial, municipal and parliamentary which kept the arbitrating bodies in Portugal and Goa quite preoccupied resolving issues of various kinds.

Limited Franchise (1822-1878)

The rules of suffrage sent to Portuguese India, as in the rest of the Portuguese dominions, privileged a select body of people in Goa. The municipal and parochial elections were generally guided by the administrative codes of the 19th century. It is to be noted that rules governing franchise in the local elections (parochial and municipal) were almost similar to those in the parliamentary elections, but were sometimes modified to suit the local needs of the colony. Participative identity in elections was dependent upon citizenship, domicile, taxation, literacy and the prerogative of being the head of the family. The rules governing the eligibility of the eligiveis (contestants) in the parliamentary election and the eleitores (electors or voters) remained largely consistent during the first five decades of the 19th century, but the methods of conducting elections varied at some intervals. In the overseas provinces, the respective governor general initiated the process of elections after receiving official instructions from Portugal. Notices to this effect, as well as the electoral regulations received from Lisbon were published in the government bulletin, or made available at important public places for the perusal of the concerned people.

Populist Identities In Elections (1852-1894)

The mid-19th century marks a watershed in the electoral processes of Goa. This was due to the extended suffrage in force after 1851 in Goa as in the rest of the Portuguese dominions. It was the outcome of the fall of a domineering figure in Portuguese history, a radical right wing supporter and the Premier of Portugal, António Bernado da Costa Cabral from power in 1851, who attempted to keep at bay populist elements from administration, during his regime. His ouster at the hands of the more liberal Duke of Saldanha was characterised by the implementation of new reforms which extended franchise for more than two decades. Firstly elections ceased to be indirect and voters could directly participate in elections, leading to a significant increase in number of voters who directly participated, unlike earlier. Secondly, the reduction in the taxation slab to qualify as voters was also responsible or an increase in the number of voters in Goa. This period, seen as the phase of regeneration allowed a wider section of people to vote in Goa across caste and professional lines. Therefore, the period from 1852 to 1895, is marked by an increasing propensity of populist identities besides the elite section to participate in the elections of Goa namely; proprietário (landlord), carpinteiro (carpenter), varzeiro (agriculturist), pescador (fisherman), pedreiro (mason), louvrador (toddy tapper), distilador (distiller), mainato (washer man), fiscal (supervisor), botiqueiro (shopkeeper), paneleiro (pot-maker), juiz de paz (district judge), emfermeiro (male nurse), taberneiro (inn-keeper), julgador (judge), cozinheiro (cook). According to the Decree of 1852, there was only one category of voters. They were required to possess a gross income of 100$000 réis. The Electoral Law of May 1878, yet another radical regulation, was the result of a protracted debate in the parliament between the political parties in Portugal spanning for over a decade. The groups with leftist leanings, especially the reformist party (later Progressistas) of Portugal favoured enlargement of franchise and reduction of royal privileges. This law was sought to be tailor-made to suit the plummeting financial fortunes of Portugal. Its provisions which considerably relaxed the demands on voting, revolutionised voting patterns in Goa as it did in Portugal for more than fifteen years. More importantly, the head of the family (chefe da família) was also conceded the right to vote, without demands on literacy. The statistics of voters depicted below show an increase of voters from 1860 to 1894. In the early 1860s, the voter statistics in Goa was over 6000. In the year 1865, it decreased considerable to 3,708 due to the caste rivalry and political tension in the circle of Salcette and the nullification of election in this circle. There was a great leap forward in the number of voters in the year 1878 as it reached 17,469. Evidence shows that most of the voters registered had obtained the prerogative by virtue of being the Heads of Families, and only a few by their virtue of literacy. This legislation stressed upon literacy (saber ler e escrever), a stipulated income of 100$000 réis and 21 years of age for the general voter. The subsequent regulation of March 1895, a move spearheaded by the Regeneration Party (Partido Regeneradores) in Portugal, adopted a retrograde move of disfranchising voters arguably on the ground that literacy was essential in voting. This law stressed upon factors of literacy and taxation to 5$00 réis and the same was retained in the electoral legislations of 1899 and in 1901. During the 20th century, money continued to play a role in the elections. The voters were the educated and moneyed lot. In 1915, franchise was extended to military men, who had registered themselves as voters. However, the number of voters during the republican period decreased remarkably and it could be attributed to the subtle and implicit restrictions on the qualifications to be a voter. Further, the disinterest in elections during the regime of Salazar after 1945 and interference from the government in elections also contributed to this downward trend in the number of voters. In Portugal and her colonies, most legislations of the 19th century allowed a voter to participate in elections at the age of 25 years. However, it was relaxed to 21 years under certain exceptional cases to men who were married and completed a course in higher education such as the lyceum or acquired a degree in education. In 1878, the voting age was reduced to 21 years and remained as such throughout the Portuguese period in Goa. The election of 1892 shows that the youngest married voter was registered at 21 years of age. In 1911, it was reiterated that a voter was allowed to vote at 21 years. This requirement was retained till 1961. Similar rules on age were applicable to a candidate contesting the elections. It was required that a deputado completed 25 years, to be considered eligible for this position. But the age was relaxed at 21 years under certain circumstances.

Educational Qualifications

The sufrágio capacitário (suffrage capableness) demanded saber ler e escrever (literacy) and the same was considered an important requisite in elections. It was explicitly mentioned in the Regulation of 1878 and that of 1895. As mentioned earlier, the voting age was relaxed from 25 to 21 years of age, if a voter had acquired a higher degree in education. After the historic legislation of 30th September, 1852 a higher degree in education obtained from Escola Médico-Cirúrgica de Nova Goa (the Medical School of Goa), Escola Matemática e Militar de Goa (the Military and Mathematical School of Goa) and Escola de Engenheria de Goa (the School of Engineering of Goa) were also recognised for voting. In 1860, the Goan member of the parliament, Fransisco Luis Gomes declared that it justified to demand an educational qualification, as it guaranteed a judicious exercise of the vote, but to discriminate on the basis of the country of origin or the colour of the skin was unjustifiable. Ironically, after 1910, the republicans who had earlier supported the widening of franchise went back against their promises. This move was seen as a result of the division in the Republican Party of Portugal (PRP) and the influence of the elite conservative faction in Lisbon. The republican regime encouraged the Hindu elites to protect the interests of their community in elections and express their aspirations with Instruções de 31 de Outubro de 1820, Article 11 demanded that a voter to possess essential virtues and intelligence. In 1911, the Hindu elites demanded recognition to vernacular languages as criteria to participate in the parliamentary elections on par with Portuguese. It was also stated by these elites that those who were proficient in Marathi language could hardly be compared in their intellectual wisdom to those so called Portuguese literates‟ who merely babbled and erred in their Portuguese language. Despite this demand, the new legislation enacted in 1913, still laid a stress laid on literacy in Portuguese or saibam ler e escrever português. The demand of literacy in Portuguese had the effect of drawing boundaries of inclusion and exclusion in Goa. It could disfranchise a large section of voters who did not know the Portuguese, despite their proficiency in the vernacular language. This provision which was considered as “Draconian” by the educated elites in Goa. It was withdrawn in the year 1918. The saber ler e escrever qualification was retained when elections were reintroduced in Portuguese India after 1945. However, the stress was on general literacy. A voter had to prove his literacy through a handwritten application, the genuineness of which had to be attested by a notary. He was also required to provide his certificate of birth and proof of residence certified by competent authorities, like a Regedor or the President of the executive committee of the municipal council or administrator of the province or the president of the village assembly.

The Opinion Poll

India gained its independence from the British in 1947. Goa was the largest part of the Portuguese possession in India, the other territories being small enclaves. In 1961, India incorporated these territories after a military invasion. At the time of Goa’s accession into India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had promised that Goa would retain its distinct identity. Even prior to the annexation of Goa, Nehru had promised that the people of Goa would be consulted on any decision about their territory. The Goa Opinion Poll was a referendum held in the state of Goa, India, on 16 January 1967, to decide the future of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu within the Indian Union. Although popularly called an opinion poll, it was in fact, a referendum, as the results of the poll were binding on the government of India. The referendum offered the people of Goa a choice between continuing as a union territory or merging with the state of Maharashtra. It is the only referendum to have been held in independent India. The people of Goa voted against the merger and Goa continued to be a union territory. Subsequently, in 1987, Goa became a full-fledged state within the Indian Union. Goa (then Goa, Daman and Diu) missed the opportunity to participate in the First and Second LokSabha Elections held in 1952 and in 1957 respectively as it was under the colonial rule. Goa was liberated in 1961 and availed the first prospect to participate in the democratic process at the national level only in 1963.In the year 1962 Dr. Pundalik Gaitonde and Dr. Antonio Colaco were nominated from Panaji and Mormugao Parliamentary Constituency respectively.

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