Zoom News : Sep 25, 2020, 02:19 PM
New Delhi: The Bihar Assembly elections will be held in three phases with polling to take place on October 28, and November 3 and 7, with the counting of votes to take place on November 10, according to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora.According to the CEC, the date for issue of notification for the first phase will be October 1, last date of nomination is October 8, scrutiny of nominations October 9, last date for withdrawal of candidature October 12, and date of polling will be October 28th. The counting of votes, for all phases, will be on November 10.For the second phase, the date for issue of notification is October 9, last date of nomination is October 16, scrutiny of nominations October 17, last date for withdrawal of candidature October 19, and date of polling will be November 3.In the third and final phase, issue of notification on October 13, last date of nomination is October 20, scrutiny of nominations October 21, last date for withdrawal of candidature October 23, and date of polling will be November 7.Over 7.29 crore people of Bihar are expected to cast votes between October 28 and November 7 next to elect 243 members of the state legislative assembly in the first direct polls of the country in the Covid-19 era.The commission held indirect polls to fill vacancies in the Rajya Sabha and the legislative councils in the states over the past few months, but the general elections to the Bihar Legislative Assembly will be the first direct one to take place after the Covid-19 pandemic swept the country.Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will lead the ruling coalition of the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the coming elections in Bihar. A ‘grand alliance’ of the Congress, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the left parties is set to pose a challenge to the ruling coalition.Bihar currently has 13,015 active cases of the SARS-CoV-2 infection registered, while 160178 people have recovered after being infected by the virus. The state recorded 878 deaths due to the Covid-19 so far. With 86,052 fresh Covid-19 cases recorded across the country in the last 24 hours, the national tally of the SARS-CoV-2 infection neared 5.9 million, with 970116 active cases and 4.75 million already recovered.The EC on August 21 issued broad guidelines for holding polls at the time of pandemic.It, however, left it to the Chief Electoral Officers in the poll-bound states to frame specific plans for holding elections amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic, based on the broad guidelines issued by it.The National Capital Territory of Delhi went to the polls on February 8 – a few days after the country’s first case of Covid-19 infection was detected in Kerala. The outbreak turned severe across the country a few weeks later. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and the two other Election Commissioners – Sushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar – announced the schedule of the elections to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar during a press-conference at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.The EC of late brought down the maximum number of electors to be facilitated at a polling station from 1500 to 1000 to ensure implementation of social distancing norms in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of polling stations in Bihar thus jumped by 40 per cent, from 65,000 to 100,000.The EC’s guidelines for conducting polls during Covid-19 require all voters to come with masks on their faces. If anyone forgets to do so, they will be provided masks while waiting in the queues before entering polling booths – maintaining six feet distance from each other. They will also get gloves to put on before pressing the buttons on the Electronic Voting Machines. Apart from infrared thermometers for checking the body temperatures of the voters, the polling stations will also have sanitizers, soap and water and all poll officials too will be issued masks, face-shields and gloves to put on. The polling booths will be sanitized, preferably a day before the date of voting. If a voter running high body temperature turns up at a polling station, she or he will be sent back with a token and asked to come again at the last hour to cast votes.The Chief Election Commissioner said that over seven lakh hand sanitiser units, about 46 lakh masks, six lakh PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) kits, 6.7 lakh units of face-shields and 23 lakh pairs of gloves had been arranged for the poll officials. He also said that 7.2 crore single-use gloves had also been arranged for the voters to put on before pressing the buttons of the EVMs.The quarantined Covid-19 patients will be allowed to cast votes at the last hour of polling, along with the ones who will be turned back earlier on the day when thermal screening found them to be running high temperature. The EC extended the time for polling by an hour.The “new normal” of elections will in fact begin with the filing of nomination by the candidates, who will have the option of filling the forms and the affidavits online and submission of printouts before the Returning Officers. They will also have the option of depositing the security money online. They will however not be allowed to take out long processions while going to submit nomination papers. They can take only two vehicles and two supporters to the offices of the Returning Officers.The campaigning ahead of polling in the Covid-19 era is also going to be a toned-down affair. Not more than five persons will be allowed to go for door-to-door campaigning and only five vehicles can take part in the roadshows. Only a limited number of people will be allowed to attend the public meetings in the designated grounds as the EC wants the authorities to ensure strict adherence of the social distancing norms.