New Delhi: The Election Commission of India has rescheduled the polling date in Punjab by six days in view of the Guru Ravidas Jayanti that falls around the time when Assembly elections were to take place earlier in the state. The election will now be held on February 20 instead of February 14 as announced earlier.
The political parties had requested the EC to postpone the polls in the state till at least February 16 as lakhs of voters are expected to travel to Varanasi for Guru Ravidas Jayanti. Punjab has a substantial population of followers of Guru Ravidas, including the Scheduled Caste community, which is around 32 per cent of the state’s population.
“The commission has received several representations from the state government, political parties and other organisations drawing attention regarding the movement of a large number of devotees from Punjab to Varanasi for participation in Sri Guru Ravidas Ji Jayanti celebrations, which is observed on 16th February 2022. They also brought to notice that a large number of devotees start moving for Varanasi around a week before the day of celebration and keeping the poll day on 14th February 2022 will deprive large number of electors from voting. In view of this, they have requested to shift the poll date a few days after 16th February 2022. The commission has also taken inputs from the state government and the chief electoral officer, Punjab, in this regard,” the EC said in a statement on Monday.
It added that “after considering the new facts emerging out of these representations, inputs from the state government and the state’s chief electoral officer, past precedents and all facts and circumstances in the matter, the commission has decided to reschedule the general election to the Legislative Assembly of Punjab”.
As per the new schedule, the new poll notification will be announced on January 25 and the last date of nomination will be February 1. The date of scrutiny of nominations will be on February 2 and of withdrawals on February 4. The counting of votes will be taken up on March 10 as per the previous schedule.
Political parties in Punjab have widely welcomed the decision. Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi said this will allow a large number of followers from the state, especially its Doaba region, to travel to Varanasi to celebrate the Guru’s birth anniversary.
Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said: “We had urged the Election Commission to postpone the date, and we welcome the EC’s decision.” Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Union minister and BJP leader Som Prakash, Aam Aadmi Party’s senior leader Harpal Singh Cheema and BSP’s Punjab chief Jasvir Singh Garhi also welcomed the decision.