Guwahati: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday declared the dates for the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections which will be held in three phases — October 28, November 3 and November 7. The results will be declared on November 10.
This will be the first election which will be conducted on a large scale after the outbreak of novel coronavirus. With this announcement, the Model Code of Conduct comes into force in the state.
“Elections entail large scale deployment of security forces. We have tried to minimise their movement over long distances. This is due to their fatigue as well as Covid-19. We have reduced the number of phases to three due to this,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora while speaking at a press conference in New Delhi.
He added the polling time has also been increased by an hour in view of the pandemic. The last hour will be reserved for those with Covid-19 and who are quarantined. However the extension would not be applicable for Maoist-affected areas.
“To further decongest polling stations and allow more free movement of voters, polling time has been increased by 1 hour. It will be held from 7 am-6 pm, instead of 7 am-5 pm earlier. However, this will not be applicable to Left-wing affected areas,” CEC Arora said.
The number of voters per booth will go down as the number of booths has gone up to ensure social distancing amid the pandemic. Voters will to have stand six feet apart at polling booths, where soaps, water, and hand sanitisers will be made available at the entry points.
Arora, while announcing the schedule, also mentioned that proper sanitisation and social distancing protocols will be maintained during the polling. Referring to a report from Bihar’s chief electoral officer he said that 700,000 units of hand sanitisers, 4.6 million masks, 600,000 personal protective equipment suits, 760,000 face shields, and 2.3 million gloves have been arranged for the polling staff. He also said that the ECI has procured 7.2 million gloves for the voters to cast their votes.
The CEC also informed that 230,000 migrant workers, who have returned to Bihar after losing their jobs due to the lockdown, have been added to the updated voters’ list in the state.
“As the pandemic spread across the world, the first reaction globally was to postpone elections hoping that the pandemic would lose grip and they can conduct the elections in a more conducive environment,” Arora said.
Along with the assembly polls, the Election Commission has also announced its decision to conduct 65 pending by-elections to fill vacancies in various assemblies and one in Lok Sabha seat. The bypolls were earlier postponed because of floods and the pandemic.
The election governing body has also issued caution against the misuse of social media. “Anyone using social media for mischievous purposes such as for flaring communal tension during elections will have to face consequences; hate speech will be also dealt with harshly,” said Mr Arora.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, will be eyeing for his fourth term, who will be contesting elections as an ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar includes Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU), the BJP, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) headed by Chirag Paswan and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha.
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