As the pandemic in India has started receding, the country is witnessing its first assembly polls in Bihar post-Covid. The first phase of polling took place in Bihar on Wednesday, October 28. In the midst of all speculations, a large number of people took to the street and cast their vote. Seeing more than 54% turnout even in these extraordinary times one can very easily see the respect for the democratic process among the people of Bihar. Although the faultiness in the preparation for elections by the election commission can be clearly seen as there was a blatant compromise in social distancing norms and other norms of Covid protocol.
The first phase witnessed polling on 71 assembly seats. Of the total of 1,066 candidates contesting the first phase, 952 are male. Gaya is the district with the highest number of candidates having around 27 candidates on the ballot. The minimum is in Banka district’s Katoria, where only five people are contesting. Noteworthy candidates in the first phase include Shreyasi Singh, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist who joined the BJP recently. She is contesting the Naxal-dominated Jamui seat, where she is hustling against the RJD’s Vijay Prakash, sitting MLA.
Election Commission for the safe conduct of polls issued guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic mentions staggering of polling hours and a postal ballot facility for those aged above 80 or suspected to be carrying the virus. Voting hours have been extended with separate booths that were set up for the infected and suspected.
Over and above that, all EVMs were frequently sanitized and all personnel at polling booths were wearing face masks and other protective gear at all times. Voters were mandated to wear face masks and were screened by thermal scanners. Around seven lakh units of hand sanitizers, 46 lakh masks, six lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh face shields, and 23 lakh pairs of gloves were made available
The election commission also limited the maximum number of voters allowed at a polling station – down to 1,000 from 1,500. This led to an increase in the number of polling stations – from 65,367 in 2015 polls to over 1.6 lakh in this election.
The next phase of voting will happen on November 3 at 94 constituencies in 17 districts. People expect the voting percentage to increase in the second phase.