The Bihar election will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and 7 and the results will be announced on November 10, the Election Commission said today.
This is the world’s biggest election to be held in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora called it a “leap of faith”, pointing out that medical and engineering exams JEE and NEET took place recently. “Life has to go on,” he told reporters.
“The world has changed significantly since the last elections, which were held for Delhi assembly. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a new normal in every aspect of our life,” he said.
Bihar has to elect a new 243-member assembly by November 29.
There will be an extra voting hour, separate voting for Covid patients, suspects and those in quarantine, and no physical contact during the campaign. The number of phases have also been reduced to minimize infection. “COVID-19 patients can vote in the last hour of the day,” Mr Arora said.
The powerful election body has also warned against the misuse of social media. “Anyone using social media for mischievous purposes, such as for flaring communal tension during elections will have to face consequences, hate speech will be also dealt with harshly,” the Election Commission said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who leads a coalition in the state with the BJP, will fight for a fourth term in these polls, with the opposition RJD of jailed former chief minister Lalu Yadav and the Congress challenging him.
The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) includes Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United, the BJP, Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha, which recently switched from the opposition alliance.
The opposition, led by Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav, is likely to target the ruling coalition over its handling of the coronavirus crisis and the fallout on migrants, besides the floods in the state. The centre’s controversial farm bills that were passed in parliament despite opposition protests has also armed Tejashwi Yadav with an issue to target what he calls an “anti-farmer” government. This morning, he drove a tractor at a protest to drive home the point.