The Election Commission of India on Friday announced that the Bihar assembly elections would be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7, with the counting day on November 10. While the last assembly election in Bihar was held in five phases, the reduction to three is one of the many measures that the EC announced in what will be the first major election in the country in the times of COVID. The Model Code of Conduct stands enforced beginning Friday for elections to the state that has 243 seats.
Putting forward the dates for the election, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the filing of nomination for Phase 1 begins on October 1 and ends on October 8, scrutiny of candidates will be done by October 9, last date of withdrawal of candidate is October 12 and polls will be held on October 28. In this phase, 71 seats in 16 districts, including those affected by LWE violence, will go to the polls with around 31,000 polling stations.
For Phase 2, the filing of nominations will begin on October 9 and end on October 16, scrutiny will be done by October 17, withdrawal by October 19, and polling on November 3. In this phase, 94 seats across 17 districts will got to polls with 42,000 polling stations.
For Phase 3, the filing of nominations will begin on October 13 and end on October 20, scrutiny will be done by October 21, withdrawal by October 23, with polls on November 7. This phase will see elections to 78 seats from 15 districts at 33,5000 polling stations.
Arora said that the “world had changed significantly and not for the better” and that “COVID had enforced a new normal”. And while election management committees across the world first chose to defer elections, the lack of abatement of the infection and its unpredictable trajectories meant that “some way had to be found to find balance between the democratic rights of voters and their health”. He said that over months, the Election Commission has made meticulous preparations.
Arora also flagged the issue of the misuse of social media and said that the Commission would keep a close eye on activities online and anyone trying to “foment communal tension” would have to face the full “law of the land”. He also asked the social media platforms to be vigilant and evolve monitoring systems, saying that they “would not be allowed to say they were only platform providers”.
On the bye-elections and MLC elections, the Commission said that they had received letters from the Chief Secretaries and CEOs of certain states, some from South India, in the past three to four days requesting for a deferment. He said that these would be considered by the Commission and a decision on these elections would be announced on Tuesday, September 29.