Bihar Assembly polls: 1st phase of voting passes off peacefully with 54.26% voter turnout amid COVID-19 guidelines

The first phase of the Bihar assembly election was the first major poll held in the country amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

 Bihar Assembly polls: 1st phase of voting passes off peacefully with 54.26% voter turnout amid COVID-19 guidelines
Image courtesy: ANI

New Delhi: The first phase of polling for the Bihar assembly elections on Wednesday (October 28) witnessed an estimated 54.26 per cent voter turnout. The polls held in 71 constituencies spread across 16 districts amid tight security were least affected by coronavirus scare while strict COVID-19 regulations were put in place.

The Election Commission's Voter Turnout App, updated till 10 PM, stated that the provisional polling percentage was 54.26. The Chief Electoral Officer's office in Patna, however, said that the voter turnout in the 2015 election in these 16 districts was 54.75 per cent.

This was the first major poll held in the country amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic. The poll time was also increased by an hour till 6 pm to allow suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients to vote in the last hour. In some constituencies, the polling went beyond 6 PM. 

The voting hours in Naxal-affected areas were curtailed where it began at 7 am and ended at 4 pm. Out of the 16 districts which went to polls, 12 are hit by Left-wing extremism, a senior poll panel official told PTI, adding "out of the 12, four are considered as extreme Left-Wing affected." 

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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. 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).

In Delhi, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that the voter turnout in phase one was 54.94 per cent in the 2015 assembly polls, while in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections the corresponding figure was 53.54 per cent. 

Sunil Arora 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 a break from the past, the CEC attended the poll panel briefing here on voter turnout in the first phase of the Bihar Assembly elections held on Wednesday. Usually, the briefing is held by the deputy election commissioners concerned.

Election Commission secretary-general Umesh Sinha told reporters in Delhi that the "projected" voter turnout is expected to exceed the last assembly and the Lok Sabha poll figures. Deputy Election Commissioner in-charge of EVMs said in Delhi that the functioning of electronic voting machines was "very satisfactory" during the polling.

A minuscule 0.22 per cent of the total 41,689 ballot units, 0.25 per cent of the total 31,371 control units, and 1.28 per cent of the total 31,371 paper trail machines were replaced due to malfunctioning.

In 12 polling stations of Jamui, the poll timing was increased by one hour due to the delay in replacing the faulty machines. Notably, one control unit and at least one ballot unit makes for one EVM.

Across all 16 districts that went to poll on Wednesday, voters were seen queuing up at polling stations since early morning and COVID-19 norms were largely followed with people wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from each other.

(With Agency Inputs)