After long drawn anticipation, the Election Commission has finally declared the dates for the conduct of the Bihar Assembly Elections, the largest election to be held during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although state elections are a usual phenomenon that one can spectate in the country as each year passes, the Bihar assembly elections aren’t an ordinary one, all thanks to Covid-19. This election with over 70 million voters with a ravaging pandemic lingering in the background, poses to the EC, a set of herculean challenges which it has never faced before since its constitution after Independence.
There are a number of additional provisions and measures added by the EC along with a few amends made in the procedures to conduct the Bihar elections while restraining the spread of the virus and ensuring that each and every voter gets the opportunity to exercise their right.
For starters, the elections are to be held in a 3-phased manner, beginning on 28 October 2020 and concluding on November 7 followed by counting on 10 November.
This is the first time the state will be witnessing an election being wound-up in 3-phases, as the conduct of elections would demand the deployment of the administrative machinery all across different areas in an era of social distancing.
Further, to ensure Universal Access to Universal Adult Franchise is to increase the polling hours so as to make provisions for Covid-19 infected asymptomatic patients to visit the booths and vote. On the other hand, Covid-19 patients who aren’t able to make it to the booth or voters who’re above 80 will also be provided with a “Postal-Ballot” facility.
As social distancing has become the new normal, the EC also has planned to increase the number of polling stations from 65,337 in 2015 to more than 1 lakh in 2020. This will in turn help in reducing the maximum number of electors in a booth from 1,500 to 1,000. The EC has also taken a number of measures to ensure safety and sanitation in the polling booths.
“Over 7 lakh hand sanitizer units, about 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh units of faces-shields, 23 lakh (pairs of) hand gloves arranged,” said Arora. “For voters specifically, 7.2 crore single-use hand gloves have been arranged,” said the Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora.
Apart from catering to the voters’ side of the electoral spectrum, the EC has also made several provisions for those who will contest. Candidates will be allowed to file in nomination papers as well as the security money online.
In addition to this, the EC has also ensured that the election won’t only consist of Virtual campaigning, but physical rallies and door-to-door campaigns will also be permitted with the imposition of certain limitations along with the enforcement of social distancing norms.
Hence, with a series of exhaustive measures and planned precautions, the EC fearlessly looks in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and is all set to discharge its duties and responsibilities. The dedication of the EC to ensure that not even a full-blown pandemic comes in the way of the democratic rights of the people deserves our applause!