The Bihar Assembly polls will be conducted in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7 and the results will be announced on November 10. Phase 1 will witness polling in 71 seats, phase 2 in 94 seats and phase 3 in 78 seats.
Announcing the poll schedule, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora on Friday said, “It is a very very meticulously planned exercise.” The CEC also cited examples of NEET and JEE exams conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and said, “Lakhs of students appeared for NEET and JEE examinations. SC has also said that life has to move on.”
He said, "The world has changed significantly and certainly not for the better. The uncertainty and devastation caused by COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work. It has forced a new normal... Today, we are here to announce the elections of one of the largest states of India, Bihar. If you see the relative statistics, this is the biggest election in the world in COVID-19 times."
Talking about the COVID-19 safety arrangements during polling in the state, the CEC said that over 7 lakh hand sanitiser units, about 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh units of faces-shields, 23 lakh (pairs of) hand gloves have been arranged. For voters specifically, 7.2 crore single-use hand gloves have been arranged, said Arora.
Nomination forms for the elections are now available online as well. Security money can also be transferred in online mode. The number of people who will accompany the candidate to file nomination papers is restricted to two. For door-to-door campaigning, the limit is three persons, while convoys will be restricted to five cars.
All election meetings will be monitored by election and health officials. Public gatherings can take place following social distancing norms. The District Election Officers will decide on the number of people allowed in such gatherings.
Voters with COVID-19 can cast their votes during the last hour of the polling day, said the CEC, adding that the polling time has been increased by one hour and will extend from 7am to 6pm.
The EC has revisited the instructions for holding elections due to COVID-19. The first major step was to reduce the number of electors at each polling station from 1,500 to 1,000, said the CEC.
The Bihar Assembly's term will expire on November 29. Of the 243 seats, 38 are reserved for SCs and two for STs. The total number of voters in Bihar in 2015 was 67 million. The number has now increased to 72 million, said Arora.
People above the age of 80 can vote through postal ballots. Whereever required and asked for, the facility will be extended. Further, voters with disabilities, and who are suffering with Covid-19, will be taken care of, said the CEC.