The Election Commission of India on Friday announced a poll schedule for the Indian state of Bihar, saying elections for the 243-seat state legislative assembly will be held in three phases, beginning in late October and lasting until mid-November.
Unveiling the schedule, Chief Election Commissioner of India Sunil Arora said that during the first phase, 71 constituencies will go to the polls on 28 October.
In the second phase, polling will be held across 94 constituencies on 3 November.
In the third and the last phase, polling will be held in the remaining 78 constituencies on 7 November, he said, adding that votes will be counted on 10 November.
Terming it as the "biggest election in the world in the Covid times", the top official of the election body also enumerated the precautionary measures being taken during the election on account of the pandemic.
“Over 0.7 million hand sanitisers, about 4.6 million masks, 1.2 million PPE kits and faces-shields, 230 billion pairs of hand gloves have been arranged. For voters specifically, 72 million single-use hand gloves have been arranged,” said Arora.
To facilitate the right to franchise for those quarantined due to COVID-19, the Election Commission said arrangements of postal ballot and polling in the last hour will be made.
The political parties in the fray in the elections are the ruling BJP and its ally JD (U) on one side along with Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), and the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on the other.
Currently, the state is being led by State chief Nitish Kumar, a JD (U) leader. Kumar has been the state chief since 2005, when he defeated the RJD in the state.
Even as the elections in Bihar will provide an electoral litmus test for the policies of the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a number of issues such the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic slowdown, the border dispute with China, and the recent farm and labour reform bills, representatives from both the sides are confident of winning the election.
Federal Cabinet Minister and BJP Leader from Bihar Ravishankar Prasad asserted: “We are confident that NDA will get a majority and Nitish Kumar will be Chief Minister again.
“We welcome the decision of the Election Commission. We are assured, as people of Bihar want to get rid of this government. JD(U) does not matter in the election, our fight is against BJP,” RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav told the media in the state capital of Patna. His father, former Bihar state chief Lalu Yadav is serving a jail term for involvement in a fodder scam.