New Delhi: Assembly elections in Bihar will be fought in five phases between 12 October and 5 November in a high-stakes battle that is seen as a major popularity test for NDA spearhead Prime Minister Narendra Modi and incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is in alliance with RJD and Congress.
Announcing the poll schedule, the Election Commission said that counting of votes will be held on November 8, just three days before Diwali and the locally significant Chhath puja that follows the festival of lights.
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said polls to the 243-seat Assembly will be held on 12, 16, 28 October, 1 and 5 November. The term of the current Assembly expires on 29 November.
The battle for power in Bihar assumes significance in the context of Modi leading the NDA charge after BJP’s debacle in the Delhi assembly polls early this year. Recently Modi announced a Rs 1.65 lakh crore package for Bihar in his bid to end the two-decade reign of Lalu-Nitish combine.
The BJP and the ruling JD(U) ended the alliance after eight years in power when Nitish Kumar parted ways over Modi being anointed the campaign chief of BJP in 2013 for the Lok Sabha elections.
Noting that a number of important festivals like Dussehra, Eid, Muharram, Diwali and Chhath will fall in the election period, Zaidi said the Commission will ensure communal harmony and peace.
Flanked by Election Commissioners Achal Kumar Joti and Om Prakash Rawat, Zaidi told a press conference that more than adequate security arrangements have been made by the election body to ensure peaceful, free and fair polls in state where over 47 constituencies are hit by Left wing extremism.
This time, EC has ensured that central armed police force (CAPF) personnel are deployed in all the 62779 polling stations of the state.
There are over 6.68 crore voters in the state.
In the first phase on 12 October, 49 assembly constituencies will go for polls spread across 10 districts. Polling will be held in 32 assembly constituencies in six districts in the second phase on October 16. Most of the Left wing extremism hit areas will go for elections in the first two phases.
In the third phase, polling will be held in 50 constituencies in six districts while in the fourth phase, 55 assembly seats in seven districts will go for elections. In the last phase, elections will be held in 57 constituencies in nine districts, CEC Zaidi said.
Last time, Bihar assembly elections were held in six phases.
Asked about the number of central forces personnel provided to the EC for the Bihar assembly polls, Zaidi, while refusing to give out any exact number, said “More than adequate police force is at disposal.”
Sources later said over 6,000 personnel have been provided and the five phases of election have been so spread to ensure that securitymen get enough time to mobilise themselves.
The CEC said besides being deployed at all the polling stations, the central forces will also carry out confidence building measures in sensitive areas.
Area domination exercise, de-mining activity (detection and removal of mines and IEDs), cordon-and-search operations and intelligence gathering are some of the tasks assigned to central forces who would also use boats and helicopters to patrol sensitive areas.