Elections in Bihar will be held in three phases this year ~ 28 October, 3 November and 7 November ~ and results will be announced on 10 November, the Election Commission of India (ECI) informed at a press conference in the Capital. This announcement made Bihar India’s first state to witness a full-fledged election during Covid-19. This makes Bihar elections 2020 unique and has compelled the ECI to take extra measures to conduct a glitch free and fair election.
The Commission’s topmost responsibility will be to get the voters to come to the polling booths and maintain respectable turnout. “The world has changed significantly since the last major election in our country, which was held for Delhi assembly, and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a new normal in every aspect of our life. Bihar assembly polls will be one of the biggest elections globally to be held during the prevailing COVID-19 situation,” said Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora.
This drove the ECI to announce various first-time measures like 7 lakh hand sanitisers, 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh face shields and 23 lakh pairs of hand gloves to safely conduct the elections.
Also read: Bihar’s elections during pandemic
Another major challenge for Arora is to manage the Covid patient voters or quarantined people. Covid patients, who are quarantined, will be allowed to cast their vote in the last hour of the poll day at their respective polling stations, under the supervision of health authorities, strictly following Covid-19 related preventive measures. Sector Magistrates shall coordinate this in their allocated polling stations. Record of such voters shall be maintained by the Presiding Officer.
“The voting will start at its usual time of 7 a.m., but the period will be extended by an hour (till 6 p.m.), except in the Left wing extremism-affected areas. The additional hour will be meant for COVID-19 patients as they can vote in the last hour of the day,” said Sunil Arora.
About Bihar elections 2020
The term of 16th Legislative Assembly of Bihar will end on 29 November. This means the new assembly has to be constituted before this date. The first phase of elections on 28 October will cover 71 assembly constituencies, the second phase of voting on 3 November will cover 94 seats, and the third phase on 7 November will cover 78 assembly seats. Among these 243 seats, 38 seats are reserved for SCs and two seats for STs. This year, due to the pandemic, ECI has also increased in the number of polling stations, from 65,367 in 2015 to 1,06,526 polling stations in 2020.
What’s new at the polling station?
In view of the pandemic, the Election Commission of India is taking all measures to conduct smooth elections in Bihar.
There will be mandatory sanitization of polling stations, preferably, a day before the polls. Sanitizer will be provided at the entry/exit point of every polling station.
There will be a thermal scanner at the entry point of every polling station to check the temperature of voters and polling officials.
If the temperature of the voter is found to be above the norms of Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) at first reading, then it will be checked again and if it remains high, then the elector shall be provided with a token/certificate and will be asked to come for voting during the last hour of polls.
In the last hour of polls, voting shall be facilitated strictly following Covid-19 related preventive measures.
There will be markers to ensure social distancing for the queue, earmarking circles for 15-20 people at a distance of 2 yards (6 feet) for voters standing in the queue, depending on the availability of space.
There will be three queues each, for male, female and PwD/ Senior citizen voters.
Face masks will be kept in reserve for those electors, who are not wearing them.
During the process of identification of voters, the voters will be required to lower the facemask for identification, when required. At any given time, only one voter shall be allowed to stand in front of each polling official, maintaining norms of social distancing.
Hand gloves shall be provided to the voter, for signing on the voter register and pressing button of EVM for voting.
Guidelines for campaigning in Bihar Assembly Election 2020
Keeping the Covid protocol in mind, the Commission has drastically changed criteria for campaigning.
In a door to door campaign, only a group of five people, including the candidate, excluding security personnel, is allowed.
In roadshows, the convoy of vehicles should be broken after every five vehicles instead of 10 vehicles (excluding security vehicles, if any).
Election Meetings: Public gatherings/ rallies may be conducted subject to adherence to extant Covid-19 guidelines.
The commission has created a facility for filling in the nomination form and the affidavit online and submission of the same after taking a printout before the RO (returning officer) concerned.
For the first time, candidates will be able to deposit online the security amount to contest elections.
In Bihar assemble elections 2020, option for postal ballot has been extended to those voters, who are marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD), voters above the age of 80 years, electors employed in notified essential services and voters who are Covid-19 positive/suspect as certified by competent authority and are in quarantine (home/institutional).