Bihar poll to be held in 3 phases from Oct. 28
The Bihar Assembly election will be be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7, followed by the counting on November 10, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Friday.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said the number of phases as well as the duration of the conduct of the poll had been reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Polling hours increased
The polling hours have been increased, except in the Left wing extremism-affected districts, by an hour — from 7 a.m. till 6 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. Mr. Arora said COVID-19 patients would be allowed to vote in the last hour of polling while following necessary precautions.
In the first phase, election will be held in 71 of the 243 constituencies, while the second phase will cover 94 seats and the third phase 78.
With 7.29 crore electors, the poll could be the largest held during a pandemic in the immediate future, Mr. Arora said.
The ECI and other authorities have taken steps to make the elections COVID-19-safe. More than 7 lakh units of hand sanitisers, 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 7.6 lakh face shields and 23 lakh pairs of hand gloves have been procured.
Everyone involved in election work, including the polling staff and voters, would have to wear masks.
The notification for the first phase would be issued on October 1. The last date of nominations would be October 8 and their scrutiny done on October 9. The last date of withdrawal of candidature would be October 12.
For phases two and three, the notifications would be issued on October 9 and October 13. The last date of nominations would be October 16 and October 20 and the scrutiny of nominations done on October 17 and October 21. The last date of withdrawal of candidature would be October 19 and October 23.
In order to reduce crowds at polling stations, the maximum number of electors at a polling station has been reduced from 1,500 to 1,000, leading to the number of polling stations going up from 65,367 in 2015 to 1,06,526 now.
Persons with disabilities, electors aged above 80, essential service workers and those suspected of or positive for COVID-19 would be given the option to vote by postal ballot.
According to the ECI guidelines, political parties will have to follow social distancing norms while campaigning. Candidates could be accompanied by two people instead of the usual five when filing nominations and only five people could be involved in door-to-door campaigning at a particular place. Public meetings and rallies would be allowed at designated grounds identified by the Bihar Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), with social distancing circles marked.
Mr. Arora said the CEO had prepared a list of such grounds.
Answering a question about the potential spreading of COVID-19 during the polls, Mr. Arora said the election exercise had been meticulously worked out. “It’s a leap of faith, not a leap in the dark,” he said.
The ECI also announced the schedule of election to the Bihar Legislative Council from four Graduates and Teachers’ constituencies each that had fallen vacant on May 6 due to retirement of the members. Polling for the eight constituencies would be held on October 22, the ECI announced.