Bihar will hold assembly elections on October 28, November 3 and 7 as it takes unprecedented measures to protect voters in the coronavirus pandemic. Results will be declared on November 10.
“Covid doesn't show any sign of going down. Some way had to be found to choose representatives and protect the health of people. Life has to go on,” said Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora at a press conference in Delhi on Friday.
Voting will take place from 7am to 6pm instead of 5pm, except for places affected by Maoist insurgency. Coronavirus patients can vote in the last hour of the day.
Bihar, which has a 243-member assembly, will be the first major state to hold elections during the pandemic.
Not more than 1,000 voters will be allowed at a polling station—down from the 1,500-limit, said the Commission when it declared coronavirus safety measures in August. Voters will undergo temperature checks and they will have to wear facemasks that they have to remove briefly for identification. Voters will get gloves at the time of signing register and pressing the EVM button, reported the Indian Express.
The Commission has capped the size of the campaign squad to three people for door-to-door visits and allowed only five cars, instead of 10, in a candidate’s convoy for roadshows. Only two people will accompany a candidate for filing her nomination papers.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will fight for a fourth term in these elections, leading the National Democratic Alliance in partnership with the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Rashtriya Janata Dal of jailed former chief minister Lalu Yadav and the Congress form the Opposition in the elections.
Bihar had 169,651 coronavirus cases and 870 deaths from the disease till date, Business Standard's national dashboard showed this morning.
A report by US think tank Council on Foreign Relations notes that more than 60 countries postponed voting for the coronavirus pandemic, as dozens of others, including Burundi, France, and South Korea, went forward with their elections. South Korea reported no new cases related to its April election.
"The world has changed significantly since the last elections, which were held for the Delhi assembly. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced a new normal in every aspect of our life," said Arora.