Longer polling time, online nominations: How COVID is affecting Bihar polls!

New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) In what will be India’s first full fledged election ever since the deadly COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, polling for the 243 Assembly seats in Bihar will take place in 3 phases between October 28 and November 7 this year. The Election Commission of India made the announcement in Delhi on Friday, adding that the votes will be counted on November 10.

But given this is a COVID-era election, polling time has been increased by one hour. “Now the polling time will be between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.” the EC said. This, the poll body believes, will help avoid queues. But it will not be applicable to the Left-Wing affected areas.

While the election could have been held in more phases, this was avoided considering the pandmeic and its possible effect on the security forces on duty. “Elections entail large scale deployment of security forces. We have tried to minimise their movement over long distances,” Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said.

The CEC also announced a number of new measures in view of the pandemic. Arora said, “Now nominations can be done online and offline also. And quarantined patients can vote at the end.”

Also, keeping the containment guidelines in view, the Commission has limited the number of persons, including candidates for door to door campaigning to five. Public meetings and road shows will be allowed subject to containment instructions issued by the Union Home Ministry/State.

“Face masks, sanitizer, thermal scanners, gloves, face shield and PPE kits shall be used during the electoral process ensuring social distancing norms. Hand gloves shall be provided to all the electors for signing on the voter registers and pressing buttons of EVM for voting,” it said.

“Covid-19 patients, who are quarantined will be able to cast their vote in the last hour of polling, at their respective polling stations, under the supervision of health authorities. This is beside the option of postal facility already extended to them,” the poll panel said.

The CEC said the poll panel has also revised norms for the number of persons accompanying the candidate and the number of vehicles at the time of nomination. “It has also created an optional facility to fill the nomination form and the affidavit online and submission of the same, after taking a print, before the Returning Officer concerned. For the first time, the candidates will have the option to deposit the security amount for contesting the elections online,” the poll panel said.

India has reported 86,052 new Covid-19 cases and 1,141 deaths in the last 24 hours taking its tally to 58,18,570, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Friday morning. This is why so many precautions are being taken for the Bihar election.

“The Bihar elections will be held in three phases. Elections for the 1st phase will take place on October 28 on 71 Assembly constituencies, elections for 2nd phase on 94 seats will take place on November 3 and 3rd phase poll on 78 Assembly seats on November 7,” the CEC announced.

With this the model code of conduct has also come into play.

The last date of nomination for phase 1 will be October 8 and the last date of withdrawal of candidature is October 12. For phase 2, the last date of nomination has been fixed as October 16, while the last date of withdrawal of nomination is October 19. For phase 3, the last date of nomination is October 20 and the last date of withdrawal of candidature October 23.

The term of the Bihar Assembly ends on November 29. According to the poll panel, there are 7.29 crore voters in the state, including 3.85 crore male and 3.4 crore female voters and 1.6 lakh service voters.


Indo Asian News Service

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