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Harvesting season worries grip Punjab leaders (Election Special)

Posted on Apr 21 2014 | IANS

By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, April 21 : As the election fever builds up in Punjab for the April 30 Lok Sabha polls, so is the concern among politicians about the polling date coming right in the middle of the peak wheat-crop harvesting season.

The period between April 14 and May 15 is when the maximum wheat arrival happens in a state known as the food basket of the country. Government procurement agencies do the maximum procurement of the wheat crop generally between April 25 and May 10.

"The centre and the Election Commission have not been fair to Punjab. The April 30 election date comes during the peak of the harvesting season," Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been telling gatherings in Punjab's rural areas, while urging farmers and their families to vote April 30.

"I think that this is a deliberate ploy. If the elections in neighbouring Haryana could be held on April 10, why are Punjab elections scheduled for April 30. I see no justification in this. Make sure that you cast your vote April 30," a visibly upset Badal tells people.

All 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab go to the polls April 30. The 19.5 million eligible voters will decide the fate of 253 candidates in the field.

"I don't think that much thought was given by the authorities while recommending the election date for Punjab. Farmers and their family members are busy in harvesting the crop, arranging to take it to the grain market. Even at the grain market, it can take three days or more for the procurement process to be completed. Many farmers will not be in their villages on election day," Jaswant Singh, a farmer at Sahnewal near Ludhiana, told IANS.

Even Punjab's election department is keeping its fingers crossed on the voter turnout for the April 30 polling date.

"We admit that the polling date comes in peak harvesting season. We are urging people that they must cast their vote," Punjab Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) V.K. Singh said.

Punjab, the country's green revolution state, alone contributes over 50 percent of the total food grains to the national kitty despite having just 1.54 percent of the country's geographical area. Punjab procures over 14 million tonnes of wheat during a bumper season.

Big names in the fray include Arun Jaitley (Amritsar, BJP), Amarinder Singh (Amritsar, Congress), Vinod Khanna (Gurdaspur, BJP), Pratap Singh Bajwa (Gurdaspur, Congress), union Minister Preneet Kaur (Patiala, Congress), former union minister Ambika Soni (Anandpur Sahib, Congress), leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar (Ferozepur, Congress), lawyer H.S. Phoolka (Ludhiana, AAP), comedian-actor Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur, AAP), Harsimrat Badal (Bathinda, Akali Dal) and Manpreet Badal (Bathinda, Congress-Peoples Party of Punjab).

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