Voting for the Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases – on October 28, November 3 and November 7, and the results will be declared on November 10, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Friday (September 25).
This will be the first election to be held in the country amid the ongoing pandemic. The term of the current Assembly will end on November 29. Of the total 243 assembly seats, 38 are reserved for the SC category and two for STs.
The first phase on October 28 will cover 71 assembly segments, second on November 3 will cover 94 seats and the third on November 10 will have 78. The Commission said number of phases has been reduced keeping in mind the security arrangements and festive season.
With this announcement, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force in the state on Friday. “The Election Commission has already made elaborate arrangements for ensuring effective implementation of MCC guidelines,” said Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora.
The EC has also issued a set of guidelines to be followed during the voting process. While the regulatory body has allowed filing of nominations online for the first time, it has limited the number of people for door-to-door campaigning to five.
The strength of voters per booth has been reduced from 1,500 to 1,000 while the number of tables in a counting hall has been cut down from 14 to seven. Voters will be given gloves before using the electronic voting machines.
“Over seven lakh hand sanitiser units, about 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh units of faces-shields, 23 lakh (pairs of) hand gloves have been arranged. For voters specifically, 7.2 crore single-use hand gloves arranged,” said the chief election commissioner.
Besides, voting time has also been increased by an hour in a bid to decongest the polling stations. Voting will now happen from 7 am till 6 pm, instead of the usual 5 pm, said Arora, adding that this will not be applicable to “Left-wing affected areas”.
According to the guidelines, the voters with high temperature will be allowed to vote in the last one hour of the polling process.
“As days and months passed and COVID-19 showed no signs of abetting, it was realised that some way would have to be found to balance the democratic rights of the electorate while also making sincere and systematic efforts to protect health and safety of people,” the chief election commissioner said.
He said that the COVID-19 patients, who are quarantined, will be able to cast their vote on the last day of the election, at their respective polling stations, under supervision of health authorities. This is beside the option of postal facility already extended to them, he added.
The election will see JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar eyeing the seat of chief minister for the fourth time. His government has the support of Lok Janshakti Party led by Chirag Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha.
The Opposition, on the other hand, is led by RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav, who has been criticising the government over its poor handling of the coronavirus situation and recently over the Centre’s new farm bills.