EC nips in bud squabble over polls during Ramzan
Fridays kept off schedule; Owaisi slams parties for raising non issue
The Election Commission (EC) on Monday acted swiftly to nip in the bud a controversy generated by leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over scheduling of poll dates during Ramzan.
The EC clarified that the main festival (June 4) and Fridays (falling in the holy month) have been excluded from the polling dates. The Commission also said the Lok Sabha polls are being conducted during the Ramzan because a full month cannot be excluded.
The BJP accused Opposition parties of creating a deliberate controversy over voting during Ramzan saying Hindus too would be observing “Navratra” fast when poll process would be underway next month.
Earlier, leaders of TMC and AAP alleged that the polling schedule was designed in a way that most of the constituencies go to polls during Ramzan so that Muslims cannot go out and exercise their franchise.
They claimed that during Ramzan, it will be inconvenient for Muslims and help the BJP as the community is largely seen to be backing the Opposition parties against the ruling alliance.
The Ramzan, which is a month of rigorous fasting for the Muslims, will begin on May 5 which coincides with the polling schedule in States. Ramzan will end on June 4.
After the announcement of poll schedule by the EC, AAP leader Amanatullah Khan tweeted on Sunday that elections will be held in Delhi on May 12, when Muslims will be observing Ramzan. “There will be less polling among Muslims, and it will directly benefit the BJP,” he had said. Some leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal had spoken on the similar lines.
Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said the seven-phase election will be highly inconvenient for the minority population in the States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal as the election dates coincide with the month of Ramzan.
“Election Commission is a Constitutional body and we respect them. We don’t want to say anything against them. But seven-phase election will be tough for people in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal,” Hakim said, while expressing his displeasure over the EC’s decision.
Criticising the Opposition, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain pointed out that Navratas, when many Hindus observe fast, will also fall during the elections. “Muslims do not observe roza by not doing their work. Islam also does not ask us to stop our work for worship. It is not that people who have jobs do not attend them during Ramzan. They keep roza and do their work as well. Creating such a controversy is unfortunate,” he said.
Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said that he welcomes the conduct of the election during Ramzan.
“As a Muslim I welcome the election in Ramzan. Muslims are more devotional in that month,” he said. Owaisi, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief, also said those who are making a controversy around the polls dates don’t understand Islam.
According to EC, Lok Sabha elections will begin on April 11 and continue for over a month till May 19 across seven phases. The last three phases of polling — on May 6, 12, and 19 — would take place during Ramzan.
Polling for a total of 169 Lok Sabha seats (i.e. 31.12% of the 543 seats) will take place. The polling for 41 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh; 21 seats in Bihar; 24 seats in West Bengal; seven in Delhi will be held during Ramzan. As per census, Muslim population in Bihar is 17 per cent; 20 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and 27 per cent in West Bengal.