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Punjab election 2022 postponed to 20 February

All parties in Punjab had said that several followers of Guru Ravidas would not be able to exercise their franchise on 14 February as they would be travelling

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The Election Commission today announced that it was postponing the election of 2022 by a week to 20 February in view of Guru Ravidas Jayanti, which falls on 16 February, two days after the original polling date.

The Election Commission postponed the polls, originally scheduled for 14 February, after the state government and several political parties urged it to do so as lakhs of followers of Guru Ravidas travel to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to celebrate the day. The parties had said that several followers of Guru Ravidas would not be able to exercise their franchise on 14 February as they would be travelling.

The new date coincides with the third phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh.

The election results 2022 will be declared on March 10 (Thursday) when counting of votes in the state takes place along with four other poll-bound states ― Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

The election season has been heating up since 2020 when thousands of privileged and pampered farmers marched from the state to Delhi’s borders, demanding a rollback of the three farm laws they alleged to favour corporates over farmers. They camped at the national capital’s borders for more than a year before the union government repealed the laws in the parliament.

The farmers may have returned to their homes but the saga will likely echo in the upcoming elections, twists and turns in the fortunes of the ruling INC, -Amarinder Singh alliance and an upbeat Aam Aadmi Party making the race too-close-to-call yet.

The assembly has a total of 117 seats, with 59 being the majority mark. The 117 constituencies in Punjab are spread over three regions ― Majha (25 constituencies), Doaba (23) and Malwa (69).

In the 2017 election, the INC had come to power with 77 seats while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) delivered a surprising 20 seats. Ousted from power, the Shiromani Akali Dal won 15 seats and its then alliance partner, the BJP, won three. The tenure of the current Punjab Assembly ends on 27 March.

Despite the acrimonious replacement of Capt Amarinder Singh as chief minister in September, Punjab Congress seemed to be at an advantage over other parties in the state. It brought in Charanjit Singh Channi as the chief minister, and despite the opposition terming it a “stop-gap arrangement”, the grand old party patted itself on the back for giving Punjab its a pseudo-Dalit ― Channi is a Christian whereas a Scheduled Caste has to be a Hindu by law ― chief minister.

Passive-aggressive statements against Channi by state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and the sacrilege and lynching incidents in Amritsar and Kapurthala have robbed the INC of that advantage. Completing the trifecta of troubles was the breach of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security in Ferozepur.

The state is heading into an election without a chief ministerial face. The high command cannot declare Channi as the CM face and risk antagonizing the Sidhu camp. Nor can it declare Sidhu as the chief ministerial candidate and prove the Opposition’s “stop-gap” jibe to be correct.

The INC is nevertheless hoping that the farmers’ protest and its action against former Akali Dal minister Bikram Singh Majithia in drugs cases will bring it back in action.

The AAP is yet to declare a chief ministerial face and has instead gone for a popular vote on the issue, ostensibly at the suggestion of frontrunner Bhagwant Mann. The Arvind Kejriwal-led party is riding high on the Chandigarh civic polls result where it emerged the single-largest party. It has been promising Punjab voters a Sikh chief minister, the Delhi model of governance and comes with the baggage of having collaborated with Khalistan extremists in 2017.

The is carrying the bitter baggage of farm laws protest into the election but hopes its alliance with former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s newly formed Punjab Lok Congress will offset some of that. The party has also galvanised ground workers in different states to show how “serious lapses” on the part of the Congress government compromised the Prime Minister’s security in Ferozepur.

The separate sacrilege attempts and lynching of the accused at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and Kapurthala have given the ammunition to target the Channi government over law and order.

Voted out of power in 2017, the Shiromani Akali Dal has been struggling to get back up there. Its decision to walk out of the -led National Democratic Alliance over the farm laws issues didn’t result in the political dividend it hoped it would.

The FIR against Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia came as yet another blow but the party has been alleging “political vendetta” behind the move. It has nevertheless got off the block announcing candidates to few seats.

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