Announcing the poll schedule for the 243-member Bihar assembly, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that it will be one of the biggest elections globally to be held during the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
Voting for Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases — first on October 28, second on November 3 and the third on November 7 — while counting of all votes will take place on November 10, the Election Commission announced on Friday.
Announcing the poll schedule for the 243-member Bihar assembly, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said, “There was no end to the battle against coronavirus, thus some way had to be found a way to balance the democratic rights of people to elect a public representative and also keep public health in place.”
He said these will be one of the biggest elections globally to be held during the prevailing Covid-19 situation. He said the world has changed significantly since the last elections which were held for Delhi assembly and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a new normal in every aspect of our life.
Arora said polling will be held on 71 seats in the first phase, 94 seats in second phase, 78 seats in third phase. The term for the Bihar assembly ends on November 29.
Defending the elections being held in the middle of the pandemic, Arora called it a “leap of faith” and said it was not a leap in the dark, pointing out that medical and engineering exams JEE and NEET also took place recently. “Life has to go on,” he told reporters.
He said a number of crucial steps have been taken keeping Covid-19 situation in mind.
Compared to 2015 where there were 65,337 polling booths, there are more than a lakh polling booths this time around, and not more than 1,000 voters per booth will be allowed compared to 1,500 earlier. Bihar has recorded an electorate count of 7.29 crore for these polls.
He said the number of phases have been reduced this time around. “We tried to make sure there is minimum travel of security personnel from other parts of the country to cut down infection risk. Also period of election and phases shortened. We have also kept festival season in mind before finalising the dates,” he said.
Among the steps taken are an extra voting hour, separate voting for Covid-19 patients, suspects and those in quarantine, and no physical contact during the campaign, he announced. Polling time has been increased to 7am to 6pm, he said, except in areas affected by left-wing extremism.
Here are some of the precautionary steps taken by the EC:
– Covid-19 patients can vote at booths in the last one hour that too under the supervision of a health officer.
– Nodal health officials will be appointed at all districts.
– Candidates can file nomination both online and offline, security money can also be submitted digitally. Election certificate can be procured digitally.
– All election Meetings must be held with social distancing following health protocol. It will be monitored at all levels.
– All physical contact has been prohibited.
– All door-to-door meeting should be restricted to 5 persons, including candidate. Not more than two can be present with candidate during nomination.
– Seven lakh hand sanitisers, 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh face shields and 23 lakh pairs of hand gloves have been arranged for Bihar polls,
– Postal ballot facility will be provided wherever required and requested.