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Political rallies on Baisakhi or not, CEO asks ECI

chandigarh Updated: Apr 08, 2014 10:14 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber

The chief electoral officer (CEO) of Punjab has sought clarification from the Election Commission of India (ECI) about political rallies to be organised in the state on Baisakhi (April 13). In a communiqué to the ECI on April 5, the election office in Punjab has asked the electoral body for guidance if political rallies could be organised on private property away from a religious place, but on a religious occasion.

Baisakhi, which traditionally symbolises start of the harvest season and marks the formation of the Khalsa in 1699, happens to be of much political significance in Punjab, with the state government even organising an annual conference at Takht Shri Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo.

“Provide guidance whether a political rally can be organized on a private site away from religious place on religious occasion or not,” reads the communiqué from the Punjab election office.

On March 15 , ECI had banned political rallies on Holla Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib and had said that political parties could not use religious places for campaigning. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had reacted to this and claimed that conferences on religious occasions could not be banned.

“In the past, there has been a tradition of organising a political rally on a religious occasion. On Baisakhi, such events are held at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda district and other places in Punjab,” said the communiqué, adding that it had been made clear to officials concerned that no land or site owned by religious institutions could be used for political rallies.

“However, numerous queries have come, asking if political rallies can be organised on private land away from religious places, because Religious Institutions Act deals with land and property owned by religious institutions and doesn’t mention religious occasion,” the communication said.

Punjab CEO VK Singh said the ECI wanted to separate religion from politics. “ECI want us to make a beginning and tell political parties that they are supposed to stay away from mixing religion with politics,” he said.

Thirty-nine observers from outside the state would supervise the Lok Sabha polls in Punjab on April 30.

Of them, general observers and expenditure observers are 18 each and police observers are three.
They will reach Punjab on April 9. Two observers each (general and expenditure) will stay in five sensitive constitutes – Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozpur, Bathinda and Patiala.

One observer each (general and expenditure) will be stationed in the rest of the eight constituencies. A police observer would be stationed in each division headquarter — Patiala, Jalandhar and Bathinda.