Deliberate or compulsion? Election Commission’s poll schedule for most seats in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar falls in Ramadan

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Muslim scholar Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli has asked the Election Commission of India to change the dates for the last three phases of this year’s Lok Sabha polls as it falls in the Holy month of Ramadan. He said that Muslims will start fasting from 6 May if the moon is sighted on 5 May and queuing up in the scorching heat will pose extraordinary difficulties to voters from his community.
Election Commission

This was after the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Sunday announced that this year’s Lok Sabha polls will be held in seven phases. The last three phases of this year’s parliamentary elections will be held on 6 May, 12 May and 19 May with the counting scheduled for 23 May.

The EC’s decision to hold three phases of elections during Ramadan has come as a surprise to many in light of CEC Sunil Arora’s own statement that the national poll body had factored in ‘examination dates, religious occasions, harvest seasons and inputs from weather department’ before announcing the dates for the Lok Sabha polls.

Three key states where the BJP desperately need to either repeat its 2014 performance or gain ground are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. All three states have considerably large Muslim voters.

In UP, 41 out of 80 seats (more than 50 percent) have been squeezed into the last three stages of the election schedule, while the remaining 39 have been spread over four phases before the fasting month for Muslims start. Of them 14 will go to polls on the first day of Ramadan on 6 May, another 14 on 12 May and the voting for the remaining 13 seats will be held on 19 May.

The BJP had won 73 out of 80 seats in 2014 with the help of Apna Dal. Almost all pre-poll surveys have predicted that the BJP will not be able to repeat its 2014 performance this time around.

Bihar’s 21 out of a total of 40 seats will go for polls in the last three phases. This includes five seats in phase 5 on 6 May, eight seats in phase 6 on 12 May and another eight seats in phase 7 on 19 May.

As for West Bengal, where the saffron party has been desperately trying to gain a foothold to compensate for the possible losses in north India, polling for 42 Lok Sabha seats will be held in seven phases with 24 of them being scheduled for the last three phases. This includes seven on 6 May, eight on 12 May and nine on 19 May.

Among other states going to polls during Ramadan are Rajasthan (12 out of 25 seats on 6 May), Jharkhand (11 out of 14 on 6, 12 and 19 May), 23 seats in Madhya Pradesh on 6, 12 and 19 May, 13 seats in Punjab on 19 May, 7 seats of Delhi on 12 May and 10 seats of Haryana on 12 May.

In total, 169 seats will see polling in the last three phases of the Lok Sabha elections which will fall during the fasting month of Ramadan for Muslims.

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