Bihar will go to polls in three phases in October and November. Results will be declared on November 10.
Election Commission said that Bihar polls to be held under new security protocols
The Election Commission of India is set to embark on perhaps what is one of its biggest challenges so far. On Friday, the poll panel announced that voting for Bihar assembly elections, the first major election in the country since the Covid-19 pandemic hit India, will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7. The counting of votes will be done on November 10.
Addressing the media, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that Bihar polls will be one of the biggest elections globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, one that involves monumental challenges in terms of logistics. With the announcement of the poll schedule, the Model Code of Conduct comes into effect in the state.
The ECI said that it will ensure all Covid-19 protocols are in place for the safety of poll officials and voters. The process of conducting elections in the middle of a raging pandemic will see several changes that range from virtual campaigns, social distancing to no-frill road shows and extended voting timings.
Here are 10 major changes announced by Election Commission for Bihar elections:
1. Election Commission said that voting will begin as usual at 7 am but the period will be extended by one hour until 6 pm, except in the Left Wing Extremism-affected areas.
2. The Election Commission said Covid-19 patients will also be allowed to take part in the democratic exercise. The ECI said one hour voting time has been extended to facilitate COVID-19 patients to vote in the last hour of the day.
3. According to the Election Commission, the number of voters per booth will be restricted so that social distancing norms are followed. Only 1,000 voters will be allowed to cast votes at one polling booth.
4. According to the Election Commission, 7 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.
5. Postal ballot facility will be provided wherever required and requested. Social distancing norms will need to be followed at public gatherings during the poll campaign.
6. The ECI said that nomination forms will also be made available online, apart from offline. Security money can also be transferred through online mode. The number of people accompanying a candidate for submission of nomination has been restricted to two.
7. There would be restrictions on door-to-door campaigning. The ECI said only five, including the candidate, wil be allowed for door-to-door campaign. This will exclude the security personnel. The convoy of vehicles during roadshows will also be restricted to a maximum of 5 vehicles.
8. ECI said that large rooms and halls will be identified in areas as polling booths so that social distancing norms are followed. Wearing masks during the entire election exercise will be mandatory. All polling booths will have the facility of thermal screening, soaps and sanitizers.
9. The poll body said that a maximum of 7 counting tables will be allowed inside a counting hall.
10. Regarding the training of election officials, the ECI said that it will be organised in a decentralised manner at large halls. It said all sufficient number of poll staff will be kept in reserve in case of any need.
According to the CEC, there are 7.79 crore voters in Bihar of which 3.39 crore are women. There are about 18.87 lakh migrants across 38 districts, out of which 16.6 lakh are eligible to vote. While 13.93 lakh already had their names on the electoral rolls, 2.3 lakh more have been registered and the process is still on.