In the first phase of the Bihar Assembly election 2020, the voter turnout of the state has broken all records, even under the shadow of the deadly pandemic coronavirus COVID-19. The coronavirus had no effect on the voters of Bihar on October 28 (Wednesday).
The first phase of polling for the Bihar assembly elections passed off peacefully on Wednesday as nearly 2.15 crore eligible voters exercised their franchise. Of the nearly 2.15 crore electors eligible to exercise the franchise, 1.12 crore were male, 1.01 crore female and 599 were categorised as the third gender, according to data provided by the Election Commission.
The polls were held in 71 constituencies spread across 16 districts amid tight security and strict COVID-19 regulations in place.
In the first phase, the voter turnout in Bihar has been recorded at 55.69 per cent, higher than the 2015 Bihar Assembly election and 2019 Lok Sabha election. In 2015, the voter turnout was recorded at 54.94 per cent and in 2019 Lok Sabha election, it was 53.54 per cent.
The ECI stated, “Poll percentage and final figure of Bihar in phase 1 is 55.69 %. Comparable ACS in 2015 is 54.94% and in 2019 Lok Sabha (the same ACS mapped to PCs) is 53.54%. So turnout in phase 1 is higher than both assembly and Lok Sabha elections.”
This was the first major poll held in the country amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic and the poll time increased by an hour till 6 pm to allow suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients to vote in the last hour. Polling began at 7 am and went beyond 6 PM in some constituencies, while the voting hours were curtailed in Naxal-affected areas and ended at 4 pm after beginning at 7 am.
Out of the 16 districts which went to polls, 12 are hit by Left-wing extremism, a senior poll panel official said. “And out of the 12, four are considered as extreme Left-Wing affected,” the official said in Delhi, expressing satisfaction at the smooth conduct of the exercise.
As many as 1,066 candidates are in the fray in the first phase of the poll. The prominent candidates whose electoral fate has been locked in the EVMs are Shreyasi Singh, a CWG gold medallist shooter, and six members of the outgoing cabinet — Prem Kumar (Gaya Town), Vijay Kumar Sinha (Lakhisarai), Ram Narayan Mandal (Banka), Krishnanandan Prasad Verma (Jehanabad), Jaikumar Singh (Dinara) and Santosh Kumar Nirala (Rajpur).
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had said the Election Commission was “discouraged” from holding the Bihar assembly polls amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the poll panel was of the view that carrying out the electoral exercise was a “leap of faith and not a leap in the dark”.
In his opening remarks, Arora had said, “We (EC) were, in a way I would say, were also discouraged as to why elections are being held amid Covid. But you would recall I had said on September 25 (when Bihar poll schedule was announced) that for EC, this poll is a leap of faith and not leap in the dark.” He, however, did not say who had discouraged the poll watchdog. Some opposition parties had urged the poll panel to postpone the elections due to the pandemic.