Ravi Das Jayanti celebrations: Punjab polls put off to Feb 20

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has postponed the Punjab Assembly polls to February 20 in view of the Sant Guru Ravi Das Jayanti celebrations which fall on February 16.

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Following a request from Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi of the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), along with its alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Election Commission of India (ECI) has postponed the Punjab Assembly polls to February 20 in view of the Sant Guru Ravi Das Jayanti celebrations which fall on February 16.

Results will, still, be announced on March 10, as before.

According to the earlier schedule, polling was to be held on February 14. That would have prevented, for the first time, Dalits who generally travel to Benares to observe the Jayanti, from voting.

Nearly 32% population of Punjab comprise the Scheduled Caste (SC) community. This postponement has come as a big advantage for CM Channi, who is the first Dalit CM of the state.

BSP and SAD had rasied the postponement demand on January 10. Thereafter, CM Channi wrote to the ECI, asking for a deferment of the polls for at least six days. The BJP and its allies, the Punjab Lok Congress and the SAD (Sanyukt) also put in their request.

ECI said the postponement had been done as it had received several representations from the state government, political parties and other organizations drawing its attention to the expected movement of a large number of people from Punjab to Banaras.

The Ravidassias total around 5 million in the state. The absence of such a lerge number of people would have changed the election calculations of every party. Ravidassias are primarily in the Doaba region of the state which comprises 23 assembly constituencies and each seat has SC population ranging from 25-75%.

Earlier in the week, the ECI had put off civic polls in West Bengal due to the Coronavirus, that too after a strong request from the Calcutta High Court.