Goa Opinion Poll
Peoplesí Power Triumphs; Goa Remains Goa
In 1966, war erupted between India and Pakistan and Shastri air-dashed to Tashkent, USSR to resolve the conflict. However, as fate would have had it, Shastri passed away at Tashkent and Indira Gandhi took over as Prime Minister of India. As soon as Indira Gandhi took over, Dr. Jack de Sequeira and other UGP members headed for Delhi and convinced Indira Gandhi to conduct a peopleís Opinion Poll.
A memorandum was submitted declaring that the matter could not be resolved by the Legislators. The memorandum further declared that the issue could only be resolved by taking into confidence all Goans, and the Parliament should decide to resort to referendum, which meant a signature campaign would be conducted or an Opinion Poll wherein secret voting be held.
Awaiting a reply from Parliament, the Executive Committee of the UGP decided to continue pressing their claims for a peopleís Opinion Poll and requested the Centre to allow secret ballot including postal ballot for expatriate Goans to vote from across the world. The Parliament ratified the means of conducting an Opinion Poll but disallowed postal ballot. Purushottam Kakodkar who was the President of the Congress, had then been on a sojourn to Rishikesh and on learning of the Parliamentís decision through newspapers, headed to Delhi to pledge his support to the Parliament decision.
In the memorandum, the UGP enjoying the support of all Goans, decided that the Government in Goa, step down to pave way for a fair conduct of the Opinion Poll. On 3 December 1966, the Government stepped down and accordingly Mr. V. C. Shukla, Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, piloted the Opinion Poll Bill in the Union Cabinet, which was passed by the Union Parliament on 7 December 1966 and following the Opinion Poll, the move to merge Goa, Daman and Diu with Maharashtra was defeated by a substantial margin of 34,021 votes from a total votes of 3,17,633.
The margin was commendable and thumping, considering the fact that the then recently dissolved Legislative Assembly had a strength of 16 MGP MLAs, as compared to the 12 of the UGP, at the time of the Opinion Poll, held on 16 January, 1967, amidst divergent expectations about its outcome. 25 percent of the Hindus voted in favour of a separate State.
The curtains fell on the Opinion Poll, which saw the ballot swing on either side but not without casting aspersions that the pro-merger elements indulged in organised goondaism (muscle power), distribution of money and other strong-arm tactics, like for instance the use of nails in order to hurt supporters of the UGP.
At Mapusa stones were being pelted on UGP supporters. At the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the MGP distributed booklets in favour of the merger, which were later collected and burnt.
In the second elections conducted by the Goa Legislative Assembly, the United Goans Party was the most secular party which included Hindu MLAs such as Baburao Karekar, Baba Dhuri, Shrirang Narvekar, Ravindra Prabhu, Shrirang Dubashi, Dattaram Shinde, Yeshwant Sitaram Dessai, Vasudev Salgaonkar amongst others. The presence of these members clearly mirrored the secular fabric of the United Goans Party, which was in the forefront of the political arena in Goa.
Under the able stewardship of UGP President, Dr. Jack de Sequeira, the party became the first and only Opposition party in the entire country who had lesser number of MLAs in their fold but which had a larger voter base and emerged triumphant, culminating a struggle that resulted in Goa, retaining its separate identity and thwarting the designs of the proponents of merger in a titanic battle that decided once and for all that the Goan identity would be maintained for posterity.