New Delhi: After high decibel canvassing by various political parties and big guns ended on Saturday evening, Bihar goes to first phase of assembly elections on Monday.
More than 1.35 crore electorates are expected to cast ballots at 12,686 polling stations spread over 10 districts to seal the fate of 583 candidates, including 54 women, for 49 seats of the 243-seat Bihar Assembly.
Elaborated security arrangements have been made to ensure free and fair polling. More than 1,20,000 para military jawans have been deployed, besides the Bihar Police personnel. Every polling station will be manned by the Central Para Military Force. Further, drones will be used by security forces for air surveillance for the first time in the state's electoral history.
In the run-up to the first phase, Bihar has seen high-voltage campaigns by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, spearheading the campaign for the National Democratic Alliance, though former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha patron Jitan Ram Manjhi and Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and president of the Lok Janshakti Party Ram Vilas Paswan have also been heard occasionally.
On the other hand, incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav are leading the campaign for the Grand Alliance, and are occasionally supported by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Besides them, the Left front - comprising six parties CPI, CPM, CPI-ML, Forward Block, SUCI Â© and RSP - is jointly seeking to make major inroads in Bihar.
However, issues such as development, unemployment, industrial backwardness, corruption, growing crime graph, drinking water problem, poor roads and erratic electricity supply, poor educational infrastructure, migration of students for higher education, neglect of rural areas, etc, are major poll planks used by various parties to garner voters' support.
The first phase is important for the JD (U), as out of the 49 seats, it had won 29 in the 2010 elections, while its alliance partner BJP had won 13, and the RJD four.
However, the circumstances are different this time, the 2015 Bihar polls is largely considered as a personality clash of two political stalwarts - Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This also becomes increasingly clear from the BJP's not announcing the name of its chief ministerial candidate.
The Election Commission (EC) has made arrangements to webcast the polls, while voters will be able to locate their booths through an App on their phones, which is a first for the state.
Samastipur, Begusarai, Khagaria, Bhagalpur, Banka, Munger, Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura, Nawada and Jamui Districts are going to polls in the first phase of the five-phase poll schedule that will conclude on November 5.
This election is remarkable in a sense that Bihar will become the first state to introduce photo electoral rolls, while this will be the first elections when NRIs can vote from a foreign soil.
Besides these, the EC will introduce a new cross symbol for NOTA (None of The Above) option on the electronic voting machines for the first time in the country in the Bihar polls.