Punjab poll dates shifted by EC

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Assembly polls in Punjab will be held on February 20 instead of February 14, as originally scheduled, the Election Commission decided today, reports Asian Lite News

The Election Commission of India on Monday changed the February 14 date of polling in Punjab to February 20 after request from the political parties due to Sri Guru Ravidas Jayanti.

After a detailed meeting on the rescheduling of the poll date, the Commission changed the poll schedule as announced by it on January 8.

According to the new schedule for Punjab assembly polls, now the date of notification will be January 25 (Tuesday), 2022, last date of nomination will be January 2022 (Tuesday), date of scrutiny – February 2, 2022 (Wednesday), date of withdrawal would be February 4 (Friday) and date of polling will be February 22, 2022 (Sunday). Counting of Votes will be taken up on March 10, 2022 (Thursday).

The Election Commission received several representations from State Government, Political Parties and other organizations drawing attention regarding movement of a large number of devotees from Punjab to Varanasi for participation in Sri Guru Ravidas Ji Jayanti celebrations, which is observed on February 16, 2022, the EC said in a statement.

It was brought to the notice of the Commission that a large number of devotees start moving for Varanasi around a week before the day of celebration and keeping the poll day on February 14, 2022 will deprive a large number of electors from voting. In view of this, they had requested to shift the poll date a few days after February 16, 2022, the EC officials said.

“Commission has also taken inputs from State Government and Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab in this regard and after considering these new facts emerging out of these representations, inputs from the State Government and Chief Electoral Officer, past precedence and all facts and circumstances in the matter, now Commission has decided to reschedule the General Elections to Legislative Assembly of Punjab,” the ECI said in a statement.

Earlier, the ruling Congress party, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party had requested the Commission to defer the polling on February 14 as it is close to the Sri Guru Ravidas Jayanti on February 16. Submitting a written request by the Congress Party on January 13, it said that over 20 lakh of Schedule Caste voters go to the religious visit to the places related to Sant Ravidas ji. The Party further said that a sizable number of SC voters visit Varanasi from February 10 to 16 every year, therefore, the scheduled date for the poll in Punjab should be postponed till Ravidas Jayanti.

Later the BJP and Aam Aadmi party also made a similar request to the EC, reiterating the same reason stating that many of the voters will either miss their religious trip or skip voting on February 14.

The BJP and its allies including the Punjab Lok Congress led by former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had also requested the Election Commission to defer the February 14 election in Punjab.

In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner on Sunday, Punjab BJP General Secretary Subhash Sharma said, “The state has substantial population of followers of Guru Ravidas ji, including the Scheduled Castes (SC) community which is about 32 per cent of the population of Punjab. On this pious occasion, millions of devotees would visit Banaras in Uttar Pradesh to celebrate the gurparb. So it would not be possible for them to participate in the voting process…”

Punjab Aam Aadmi Party chief Bhagwant Mann tweeted his party’ request to the Election Commission to defer the election by a week.

MHA to provide security cover to more BJP leaders in Punjab

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is to provide central security cover to important BJP leaders in Punjab after reviewing the security situation in the state in view of the forthcoming assembly election, sources in the security set up said.

The sources also said that the security cover of some union ministers and BJP leadership will also be enhanced during the election campaign, though they did not disclose the names of the protectees due to security reasons.

Besides, the Centre will also accord VIP security to the leaders of the RSS, some Hindu religious outfits and the turncoats who have recently joined BJP, the sources added.

The Centre’s move came after the Intelligence agencies’ inputs indicating that the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has activated all its terror wings to derail the poll process in Punjab. The sources in the security set up, quoting the intelligence inputs, said that the ISI sponsored Sikh terror outfits may target the election rallies and may attempt to hit some important leaders or VVIP during the electioneering in Punjab, parts of UP and Uttarkhand.

Considering Punjab election as an apt opportunity to reactivate the Khalistani movement in the state and also in other poll bound states wherein the Sikh voters are in majority, the ISI has activated all small or big terror groups which have been tasked to derail the poll process in the state, they further said.

The ISI has instructed the Sikh militant groups which are active abroad to channelize the supply of weapons and explosives in Punjab and the organizations like International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and Khalistan Zindabad Force to arrange the supply of weapons through Pakistani handlers. Recently, the security cover of Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has been upgraded from Y category to Z during his stay in Delhi and Punjab. He is also BJP’s election in-charge of Punjab.

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