Punjab Assembly elections: Here's why EC decided to push polling date to 20 February

The Election Commission's announcement came after Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and others asked to delay the polls on account of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on 16 February

FP Staff January 17, 2022 11:29:21 IST
Punjab Assembly elections: Here's why EC decided to push polling date to 20 February

Image used for representational purposes only. PTI

After holding a meet this morning, the Election Commission has announced that the polling for Punjab Assembly elections will take place on 20 February instead of 14 February.

According to the schedule, the EC will issue the notification for the polls on 25 January and the candidates can file their nomination till 1 February. The results will be declared on 10 March.

So, why was there a demand to defer the polls and what’s the story all about. We explain.

Call to push back polls

On 14 January, Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi had written to Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, requesting him to postpone the Assembly polls by at least six days on account of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on 16 February.

As of now, the Punjab Assembly election is slated to be held in a single phase on 14 February and the results will be out on 10 March.

In his letter to the EC, Channi had written that devotees would be travelling to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh for Guru Ravidas Jayanti and hence, the elections should be pushed back so as to enable them to cast their vote.

It has been reported that around 20 lakh Scheduled Caste (SC) devotees are likely to visit Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh between 10-16 February.

Incidentally, the Scheduled Castes community comprises 32 per cent of Punjab's population.

"In such a situation, many people from this community would not be able to cast their votes for the state assembly, which is otherwise their constitutional right," Channi said in the letter. "They have requested that the voting date may be extended in such a way that they are able to visit Banaras from 10 February to 16 February as also participate in the assembly elections."

Punjab BJP also made a similar request asking for a push in the polling date. Som Prakash, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, has also written to the Chief Election Commissioner asking that the state election be rescheduled to a date after 18 February.

Additionally, the Punjab Lok Congress has supported the demand to postpone the election in Punjab by a week. "Tens of thousands of people from Punjab visit Banaras every year around Guru Ravidas Jayanti," said PLC general secretary Kamal Saini in a letter to the poll panel.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) chief Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, in a letter to the poll panel, also sought that the date of voting be postponed.

Polls in Punjab

On 8 January, the Election Commission had announced that voting for the 117 seats in Punjab would be held in a single phase on 14 February. The votes will be counted on 10 March.

In the 2017 elections, the Congress had won an absolute majority in the state by winning 77 seats and ousted the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government after 10 years.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came second with 20 seats, followed by the SAD-BJP alliances with 18 seats.

All political parties in Punjab are focusing on Hindu, Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Classes vote bank in the upcoming state assembly elections. They are also wooing the majority of traditional Sikh votes.

The Congress got 43 per cent SC Hindu votes in 2017 assembly polls and 37 per cent in 2012 while it bagged 48 per cent non-SC Hindu votes last time and 46 per cent in the previous election.

Political analyst Professor Kuldeep Singh was quoted as telling the New Indian Express: “In Punjab, caste politics is not as strong as in other states. But after Channi became the chief minister, it has been highlighted. The Jat Sikhs traditionally vote for the SAD. But this time, due to the sacrilege issue and farmer stir, the Akalis will get less votes from this community. The Hindu votes are likely to be divided between all parties."

With inputs from agencies

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