Voting in Covid times.

Voting in Covid times.

Bihar votes for change? Despite Covid limits, 54% vote in peaceful first phase

EC makes elaborate safety rules for voting in the shadow of Covid

Agency Report | New Delhi | 28 October, 2020 | 10:00 PM

More than 50 per cent people vote in the first of the three-phase election in Bihar -- the first amid the coronavirus pandemic -- to decide if Nitish Kumar will win a fourth term as Chief Minister. Till 5 pm, 52.24 per cent people voted, choosing candidates for 71 of the state's 243 seats. Nitish Kumar's challenger is RJD's Tejashwi Yadav, whose promise of 10 lakh jobs has proved a huge draw in the backdrop of the lockdown and widespread unemployment. The third factor in this election is Chirag Paswan, the son of the late Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, whose rebellion against Nitish Kumar is believed by many to be backed by the BJP. The Election Commission has drawn up elaborate safety rules for voting in the shadow of Covid.

Polling was on Wednesday conducted peacefully in 71 assembly constituencies in Bihar for the first phase of assembly elections even as 53.54 per cent voters exercised their franchise.

An official of the state Election Commission said that the first phase of polling was held peacefully. No major untoward incident has been reported from anywhere so far.

In the first phase of elections, 53.54 per cent voters exercised their franchise. He said that the voter turnout was 59.57 per cent in Banka, 54.2 per cent in Bhagalpur, 47.36 in Munger, 55.44 in Lakhisarai, 55.96 per cent in Sheikhpura, 52.51 per cent in Patna and 48.29 per cent in Bhojpur.

In addition, 54.07 per cent people exercised their franchise in Buxar, 56.20 per cent in Kaimur, 49.59 per cent in Rohtas, 53.85 per cent in Arwal, 53.93 per cent in Jahanabad, 52.85 per cent in Aurangabad, 57.05 per cent in Gaya, 52.34 per cent in Nawada and 57.41 per cent in Jamui.

In the first phase, polling was held in 71 assembly constituencies spread over 16 districts of the state. According to the state election commission, 31,371 polling booths were set up for 2.14 crore voters In the first phase, 1066 candidates including 114 women are in the fray.

According to the Commission, EVMs were initially reported to have malfunctioned in several polling booths, but the glitch was later corrected. Paramilitary forces were deployed at all polling booths for the first phase of polling and special preparations were made for the corona.

Due to security and logistical reasons, polling was held in some areas till 3 pm and in some areas till 4 pm while 36 seats were held till 6 pm.

In the first phase, international shooter Shreyasi Singh from Jamui, contesting on a BJP ticket, was one of the prominent faces in the electoral fray. Other prominent candidates include BJP’s Prem Kumar, former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, Krishnandan Prasad Verma, Jai Kumar Singh, Ramnarayan Mandal, Vijay Kumar Sinha and Brij Kishore Bind, among other ministers.

Out of these 71 seats, the RJD has 25 seats while the JD(U) has 23 seats. In addition, the BJP has 13 and the Congress eight.

In Bihar, elections are being held in three phases for 243 assembly seats. Counting of votes will be held on 10th November.
The Covid-19 pandemic could not affect voter enthusiasm in the first phase of polls in Bihar as the state registered 52.24 per cent turnout till 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the Election Commission of India said here.

Mentioning that the turnout was more than “previous assembly elections as well as Lok Sabha elections”, Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said the first phase of elections concluded “very peacefully” with a few “stray incidents”.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said a total of 52.24 per cent turnout was registered by 5 p.m. after the polling at 31,371 polling stations in 71 Assembly segments in 16 districts of Bihar, including 12 Left Wing Extremist (LWE) districts. The polling began at 7 a.m.

As the polling took place at different times depending upon the area, the turnout could be more as polling at some places was on till 6 p.m.

The elections gathered momentum in the afternoon as the voting started at a sluggish pace due to technical glitches at some of the polling booths.

Violent incidents were reported in some parts of Bihar including in Kaimur district where two groups comprising more than 50 people attacked each other.

They were dispersed by paramilitary force personnel. The situation is now under control. Tekari is another place apart from Ara where an altercation between supporters of two alliances was reported.

The Election Commission had established 31,380 polling booths in 16 districts. There are 1,066 candidates are testing their luck in the first phase.

In all, 41,689 ballot units, 31,371 control units and 31,371 VVPATs were deployed in the elections.

Out of these, the replacement rate has been 0.18 per cent for ballot units, 0.26 per cent for control units and 0.53 per cent for VVPATs as per a report at 10 am, the ECI said.

In the first phase, 1,066 candidates, including 114 women are in the fray.

However, the ECI claimed that the EVM problem was solved shortly after the fault was detected, voters have to wait in queues for over an hour and some even returned home without casting votes. Due to the technical snags, the functioning of over 75 EVMs or VVPATs in Munger, Arwal, Gaya and Nawada districts of Bihar got affected.

Voters in Gaya, Jahanabad, Aurangabad, Jamui, Bhabhua, Sasaram, Baka, and Kaimur also complained of technical and other errors in EVMs.

Due to this, polling started late by 30 minutes to 2 hours at several places.

In Munger, technical glitches in Electronic Voting Machines or EVMS were reported in polling booths 165 and 231. The polling agents at these booths claimed that one EVM had the name of RJD candidate but the party poll symbol was missing.

Besides, similar glitches were reported at polling booths in Bihiya village in Bhojpur district, booth number 245 in Rohtas district, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machine at booth number 26.

Elections are to be held in three phases for the 243 Assembly seats in Bihar. The second phase of voting for 94 seats will be on November 3 and for the third phase of 78 seats will be on November 7. Counting will take place on November 10.

Voting started at a sluggish pace due to technical glitches at some of the polling booths.

Keeping in mind the Coronavirus pandemic and fear of violence in areas affected by Maoist extremists, voting was far from brisk in the morning hours.

At 3 pm, the Election Commission has registered 46.29 per cent voting in 16 districts with Jamui leading the turnout with 49.88 per cent voting, followed by Lakhisarai with 49.84 per cent voting. Buxar clocked a 48.91 per cent voting turnout, Aurangabad 48.69 per cent and Gaya 48.14 per cent.

Besides these constituencies, the voter turnout in Bhagalpur was 45.41 per cent, Banka 47.44 per cent, Munger 41.93 per cent, Shekhpura 41.67 per cent, Patna 45.77 per cent, Bhojpur 43.08 per cent, Rohtas 43.79 per cent, Arwal 42.43 per cent, Jahanabad 44.21 per cent and Nawada 45.70 per cent.

Violent incidents were reported in some parts of Bihar including in Kaimur district where two groups comprising more than 50 people attacked each other.

They were dispersed by paramilitary force personnel. The situation is now under control. Tekari is another place apart from Ara where an altercation between supporters of two alliances was reported.

The election for the first phase is currently underway in 16 districts of Bihar including some districts that are perceived as Maoist-dominated.

The Election Commission has established 31,380 polling booths in these districts. There are 1,066 candidates are testing their luck in the first phase. (IANS)