The Election Commission announced on Thursday that the dates for the two-phase Assembly polls in Manipur have been rescheduled and will now be held on 28 February and 5 March.
Earlier, the polls were to be held on 27 February and 3 March.
Here’s why the poll body decided to change the dates and also previous instances when polling dates have been changed.
Why the change?
Officials from the Election Commission explained that the change in dates came after they visited Manipur on 7 and 8 February to review election preparedness.
It was then that the suggestion was presented to them by the stakeholders.
Sources, according to news agency PTI, said that one of the reasons for rescheduling the polls was a demand made by some Christian organisations not to hold elections on a Sunday. The previous date of 27 February — the announced date for phase one of the polls — is a Sunday when Christians go to church to offer prayers.
Earlier, the All Manipur Christian Organisation had raised objections to the date for the first phase of the elections scheduled to be held on 27 February. Their objection to holding the polling exercise was that Sunday was a day of worship for the Christian community.
Naga People’s Front (NPF) President Awangbou Newmai lending support to the pushback said, "Sunday is a sacred day for the Christian community and it is a day of rest and worship for them. India is a secular nation that treats every religion equally and violating one religious right is not the principle of secularism. ECI should treat the Christian's rights equally and therefore, the first phase of the poll should be rescheduled."
Catholic vote matters
In Manipur, Christians constitute 41.29 per cent of the total population of 28.56 lakh.
In the nine hill districts of the state – Churachandpur, Chandel, Senapati, Tamenglong, Ukhrul, Kamjong, Noney, Kangpokpi and Pherzawl – that elect 20 MLAs, the population is almost entirely Christian.
The All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur said that if the dates were not deferred the polling percentage would be very low in Christian-dominated areas.
Politicos’ call to push back dates
Other than social groups, politicians from across parties had also demanded that the poll dates be deferred in the state.
In January, Ningombam Bupenda Meitei, AICC national vice-chairperson, Fishermen Congress and Manipur PCC Spokesperson, was quoted as saying, "Sunday is a sacred day as Christians have to go to their church. We have written to the EC to reconsider this date. Any day apart from Sunday is fine. They have changed the date in Punjab. Hope they will change ours too."
Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Deven Langpoklakpam had also told News18: “We will also request the EC to reconsider this.”
When polling dates were changed
This is not the first instance when the Election Commission has changed the dates.
On 17 January, keeping in mind Ravidas Jayanti celebrations, the EC had rescheduled date of Punjab poll from 14 February to 20 February. The state government and various political parties had approached the poll panel to reschedule dates.
In October 2013, the EC had tweaked certain dates for the assembly polls in Mizoram to be held in November 2013.
A by-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.
With inputs from agencies