Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bihar is the first state where a major election is being held. And to keep Covid-19 cases from spiralling in the state, the Election Commission has issued guidelines and made arrangements for campaigning, nominations, polling, and counting of votes.
While announcing the poll schedule for the 243-member Bihar assembly, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the number of phases for 243-member Bihar assembly polls has been reduced keeping in mind security arrangements and festive season, among other factors.
The voting for Bihar assembly elections will begin as usual at 7 am but the period will be extended by one hour until 6 pm, except in the Left-Wing Extremism affected areas, so that Covid-19 patients can vote in the last hour of the day.
Here are the COVID-19 protocols issued by the Election Commission for the Bihar Assembly election:
For voters: Every voter should wear a face mask during voting day. Social distancing shall be maintained during voting as per the extant COVID-19 guidelines of the state government and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Special provisions for Covid-19 patients: Special protocols have been readied for voters who are Covid-positive patients. COVID positive persons will be able to cast their ballot in the last hour of polling in their polling booth under strict supervision of health authorities.
Fewer voters per booth: Keeping in mind social distancing, the maximum number of voters per polling station has been reduced from 1,500 to 1,000. This means the number of polling stations will go up from 65,367 to 1,06,526 between the two elections.
Sanitizers, masks, and PPE kits: According to the Election Commission, 7 lakh hand sanitizers, 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh face shields, and 23 lakh pairs of hand gloves have been arranged for Bihar polls. Voters and polling staff will have to use masks and gloves.
Extended timings: Voting time will be extended by one hour and votes could be cast from 7 am till 6 pm, except for in the Left Wing Extremism-affect areas.
Postal ballot for people above the age of 80: People above the age of 80 will be allowed to cast their votes using postal ballot.
Public gatherings: Social distancing norms will need to be followed at public gatherings during the poll campaign.
Rules for candidates: The number of people accompanying a candidate for submission of nomination has been restricted to two, while a door-to-door campaign can have a maximum of five people including the candidate. Roadshows are allowed, but only with five vehicles.
Double broadcast and telecast time: The Election Commission doubled the broadcast and telecast time, allotted to political parties in Bihar, on Doordarshan and All India Radio to reduce physical campaigning and Covid-19 risks. The Election Commission has also reduced the maximum number of star campaigners for recognised parties from 40 to 30 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Voting for Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases -- first on October 28, second on November 3, and the third on November 7 -- while counting of all votes will take place on November 10.