Plea to defer Tripura, Meghalaya poll dates

Agartala/Shillong, Jan 18 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tripura and a church body in Meghalaya Friday have urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to defer the polling dates to ensure religious programmes remain unaffected.

The BJP, which has also announced candidates for 41 seats, has urged the ECI to defer the Feb 14 assembly polls in Tripura in view of Saraswati Puja Feb 15, a popular puja among Hindu students.

State BJP president Sudhindra Dasgupta in a fax message to the ECI said: "Lakhs of students would be upset if they do not perform the traditional Saraswati Puja. Hence, the polls must be deferred by a few days."

"Our central leaders have also met the ECI in New Delhi and requested the commission to defer the polling date in Tripura to respect the sentiments of lakhs of school, college and university students," Dasgupta told reporters Friday.

The BJP state chief has also threatened to launch a state-wide movement if the commission does not change the polling date within four days.

Majority of the 3,018 polling stations in Tripura would be set up in various schools across the state and lakhs of students would have to perform Saraswati Puja Feb 15 in their schools, colleges and universities.

A church body in Meghalaya has also requested the ECI to postpone the polling date (Feb 23) to make sure that churchgoers remain unaffected.

"As Feb 23 is a Saturday, the contention of the Garo Baptist Convention is that polling officials would have difficulty in attending service the next day," Garo Baptist Convention general secretary Rev R.G. Momin said in a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath.

Momin in his letter said: "Conducting of polling on a Saturday means that election officials will have to travel back Sunday. Even if they are to return on the same night, being a mountainous state, travel is not comfortable, and majority of the roads is in a decaying condition.

"This will cause physical strain and make it difficult for them to attend service on Sunday, which is a day of worship for Christians not only in Meghalaya, but across the world," he said.

Another Christians' dominated northeastern state Ngaland is also set for polling Feb 23.

More than five million Christians live in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur besides many in the other northeastern states.

Results of all three states' assembly polls will be announced Feb 28.

The assemblies in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland have 60 seats each. The five-year terms of these assemblies expire March 10, March 16 and March 26, respectively.

Meanwhile, by-election will be held Feb 23 in Chalfilh assembly seat in Mizoram.

The assembly segment was lying vacant after the death of parliamentary secretary and Congress legislator Chawngtinthanga Sept 16 last year.

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