New Delhi: Accepting a demand by the state government and various political parties, the Election Commission decided on Monday to hold the single-phase assembly polls in Punjab on February 20 instead of February 14 in view of Guru Ravidas Jayanti.
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, BJP and its allies, the BSP and other organisations had urged the poll panel to postpone the date of voting as lakhs of followers of Guru Ravidas travel to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to celebrate his birth anniversary on February 16.
In a statement, the Commission said polls would now be held on February 20. It coincides with the third phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh.
The parties had said that several followers of Guru Ravidas would not be able to exercise their franchise on February 14 as they would be travelling for the festivities.
Sources in the poll panel said there have been precedents when the EC had rescheduled assembly polls and bypolls after announcing the election schedule.
In October 2013, the EC had tweaked certain dates for the assembly polls in Mizoram to be held in November 2013.
A bye-election, again in Mizoram, in April 2014 was rescheduled and the date of phase one of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections was changed in March 2012 due to similar reasons, including religious beliefs of voters and the then prevailing law and order situation.
The EC statement said that after consideration of all facts made available, it had announced the schedule for Punjab assembly polls on January 8 under which notification for the election was to be issued on January 21.
According to the earlier schedule, single-phase polls in Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa were to be held together on February 14.
It noted that the Commission has received several representations from the state government, political parties and other organisations drawing attention towards the movement of a large number of devotees from Punjab to Varanasi for Guru Ravidas Jayanti celebrations on February 16.
"They have also brought to the 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 February 14 will deprive a large number of electors of voting. In view of this, they have requested to shift the poll date a few days after February 16," the poll watchdog said.
The Commission said it has also taken inputs from the state government and chief electoral officer of Punjab in this regard and its decision is based on new facts emerging out of the representations, inputs from the state government and CEO, precedent and all facts and circumstances in the matter.
According to the revised schedule, notification will now be issued on January 25 and the last date filing nomination is February 1.
The date of scrutiny of nominations will be February 2 and the last date for withdrawal will be February 4.
The counting of votes will be on March 10 for all the five poll-going states -- UP, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur.