Goa's Opinion Poll in 1967

Goa's Opinion Poll, which was held exactly 50 years ago, on 16th January, 1967, has barely featured in the state's election politics. The Opinion Poll is the reason Goa exists as a separate state. Actual statehood happened on 30th May, 1987, when Goa gave up its union territory status (and appendages of Daman and Diu). But this would not have happened if Goa had not voted in the 1967 Opinion Poll to keep its separate status and not become absorbed into Maharashtra.

One reason might be the complexities of Goa's politics. The Portuguese colonial state was dominated by Catholic elites, who spoke Portuguese and Konkani, yet the state also had a large Hindu population that spoke Marathi. After India's takeover in 1961, the latter came to power in Goa's first democratic elections through the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party headed by Dayanand Bandodkar.

Sections of the MGP were close to politicians in Maharashtra who argued that on grounds of language and the greater efficiency of large states, Goa (and Karnataka's Belgaum district) should be absorbed in the larger.They encouraged a growing movement for merger, much to the alarm of Catholics and other Konkani speakers of Goa. Under the leadership of Jack Sequeira of the United Goans Party , they argued that Goa's history and culture meant it should be kept separate Crucially, the Congress Party in Goa supported this separate status, despite the Maharashtra Congress being a strong supporter of merger.When Sequeira gambled by asking for a referendum to settle the issue, the Goa Congress urged the new Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, to allow it. This was the position that ultimately won, and it would seem to give the Congress a strong selling point in the current Goan elections, considering that over time Sequeira's United Goans became a marginal player.

Goa Forward, a new party claims that all previous parties in Goa have ignored the actual needs of Goenkars. Remembering the event that ensured Goa's separate status fits their programme. Durgadas Kamat, the spokesperson of Goa Forward, says they deliberately chose to have their candidates file their papers on January 16th in honour of the Opinion Poll.

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