Polling got underway in 94 constituencies of Bihar assembly on Tuesday morning in the second phase of elections which will decide the electoral fate of RJD leader and Mahagathbandhan”s chief ministerial face Tejashwi Yadav and more than 1,450 other candidates.
The poll opened at 7 am but the time for its conclusion has been extended by one hour till 6 pm to facilitate COVID-19 patients and those with symptoms of the disease to exercise their franchise in the last hour. Polling will, however, conclude early in naxal-hit areas.
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The Election Commission said voting will end at 4 pm on eight seats of Gaura Bauram and Kusheshwar Asthan in Darbhanga district, Minapur, Paroo and Sahebganj in Muzaffarpur, Alauli and Beldour in Khagaria, and Raghpur in Vaishali.
The polling hours have been reduced in the three Muzaffarpur seats because of their naxal history, while in the rest five due to other reasons related to terrain and riverine settings, a senor poll official said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to electors to vote in large numbers while following social distancing norms and wearing a mask.
“Make this festival of democracy successful by voting in large numbers. During the exercise, apart from maintaining social distancing, also wear a mask,” he tweeted in Hindi Tuesday morning.
Voting is simultaneously taking place for the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat by-poll, which was necessitated by the death of sitting JD(U) lawmaker Baidyanath Mahto.
Tejashwi urged people to vote for better education, health, improvement in law and order, and a developed Bihar. “A change is necessary for building a new Bihar in a new era,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Besides Tejashwi, his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav and four state ministers are also in the fray in this phase, which also features one transgender candidate, fielded by the LJP.
Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha”s son Luv Sinha is also contesting the poll in this phase.
Of the 2.85 crore voters, 1.50 crore are male, 1.35 crore female and 980 transgender, according to Election Commission data.
A total of 1,463 candidates — 1316 male, 146 female and one transgender — are trying their luck.
The RJD has fielded 56 candidates, LJP 52, BJP 46, JD(U) 43, RLSP 36 and the Congress 24.
Maharajganj has the maximum 27 candidates, while the minimum four are from Darauli (SC) constituency.
The Election Commission said it has set up 18,823 polling stations where people can cast their votes in 41,362 booths.
The 94 constituencies are spread across 17 districts of West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Vaishali, Samastipur, Begusarai, Khagaria, Bhagalpur, Nalanda and Patna.
The poll panel said 8,694 polling booths and 4,01,634 voters have been declared “vulnerable”, and 44,282 people categorised as “intimidators”.
Webcasting arrangements have been made at 3,548 polling centres, while 20,240 postal ballots were issued for electors above 80 years and those with disabilities, the poll panel said.
In view of the coronavirus situation, not more than 1,000 people will vote at one booth and wearing face masks has been made mandatory. Earlier the upper limit of voters at a booth was 1,600. The Election Commission said 12.8 lakh hand sanitiser bottles (100 ml) each and 6.4 lakh bottles (500 ml each) have been provided across the state for use during the exercise, besides 1.06 lakh infrared thermometers, 25.6 lakh pair of gloves, 56 lakh masks and 12.8 lakh face shields.
Additional Director General of Police (Headquarter) Jitendra Kumar told PTI-Bhasha that central armed police forces have been deployed at all polling stations.
“We have sealed the border with Uttar Pradesh. Security forces are deployed 24 hours there. We are also patrolling riverine areas. Mounted police squads have also been deployed there. We will be conducting aerial reconnaissance in sensitive areas for which two helicopters will be deployed,” he said.
He said the state police will supplement central forces at polling locations with comparatively larger number of booths.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, over 55 per cent polling was recorded in the first phase on October 28, surpassing marginally the 2015 turnout.