The Election Commission of India on Monday deferred the Punjab Assembly elections to February 20. It was earlier scheduled to be held on February 14 but political parties had urged the poll panel to postpone because of Guru Ravidas Jayanti.

Several leaders had said that many residents will leave for Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi city around the polling date to celebrate the poet’s birth anniversary.

The leaders fear that these residents will not be able to cast their votes in such a scenario.

On January 13, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had written to the Election Commission, asking it to defer the polls by at least six days, reported NDTV.

Channi had said representatives of the Scheduled Castes, which comprise 32% of Punjab’s population, have told him that several members from the community would be visiting Varanasi from February 10 to February 16.

On Monday, the Punjab chief minister welcomed the poll panel’s decision, saying it will enable a large number of followers from the state, especially its Doaba region, to travel to Varanasi to celebrate the poet’s birth anniversary.

Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Union minister Som Prakash, Aam Aadmi Party leader Harpal Singh Cheema also welcome the move to postpone the Assembly polls.

The counting of votes will take place on March 10.