The Election Commission (EC) has done a meticulous balancing act in deciding to hold a five-phase election for Bihar.
Carefully navigating through the five gazetted holidays and nine restricted holidays spread across October and November, the EC has ensured that voting to elect the 243 MLAs for the Bihar Assembly will be completed in a span of 25 days across these two months and the results will be out a good two days before Diwali.
Since the term of the current Bihar Assembly expires on November 29, the EC had ample time even during November to schedule polling dates. However, with a heavy festive season in the middle of November weighing heavy on it, the poll body had its task cut out. In the wake of the constraints and challenges, the EC appears to have stuck to a more pragmatic route.
The first phase and second phase of the polls will be held on October 12 and 16, respectively and will steer clear of Dussehra, Muharram, Maharishi Valmiki’s birthday and Karva Chauth.
While Phase 1 will witness voting for 49 assembly constituencies in 10 districts, Phase 2 will see polling for 32 constituencies across six districts. So, in effect, an exact one-third of the seats would have voted even before the festive and holiday season kicks in.
The date of polling for Phase 3–October 28—has been carefully chosen as well. This date will provide authorities around 11 days to move central police forces around the state and by the time Bihar votes on October 28, Dussehra, Muharram and Maharishi Valmiki’s birthday would be over and Karva Chauth would still be two days away. This phase would see 50 constituencies in six districts go to polls and by the time this phase ends, more than half of the seats in the state would have already voted, that too, in the month of October itself.
The remaining 112 seats will go to polls in two more phases—Phase 4 on November 1 and Phase 5 on November 5. While 55 assembly constituencies in seven districts will go to polls in Phase 4, the remaining 57 seats spread over nine districts will witness voting on November 5. Here too, the EC has ensured that the gap between both Phase 3 and 4 and Phase 4 and 5 is three days, giving the entire process a compact nature.
With an eye on Diwali (November 11), and the much celebrated Chhat festival in the state slated a few days after that, the EC has chosen November 8 as the date of counting ensuring that the poll process will be over well before the hectic festival activity kicks.
Significantly, for the first time ever in the country, the EC will ensure that photographs of the candidates will be displayed on ballot papers which will be fixed on the ballot unit of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) along with the symbol of the respective candidates. This is being done to tackle the malpractice of propping up several candidates with identical names in a bid to confuse the voters.
Also, the EC would be deploying Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in 36 assembly constituencies spread over 34 districts. A VVPAT is an equipment connected to the EVM that generates an immediate paper trail once the vote is cast. Once generated, the paper slip, containing the name and symbol of the candidate one has voted for, is visible through a glass for seven seconds before being deposited in a compartment within the machine.