The two-member EC team of Deputy Commissioners Sudeep Jain and Chandra Bhushan Kumar toured Bihar over the last two days and visited Bhagalpur, Muzzafarpur and Patna to interact with district magistrates and superintendents of police of various districts to assess their preparedness as per Covid-19 protocol.
Political parties in Bihar are expecting elections to be announced in the last week of September and conclude in three phases before Diwali on November 14. The EC usually consults the home ministry in Delhi after touring a poll-bound state to finalise the availability of forces as per the tentative dates, before elections are announced for a state.
“The EC team impressed upon us that Bihar is the first state to go to polls during the pandemic and though this will be a major challenge, the aim is to increase voter turnout from earlier elections,” one of the district police chiefs who was part of the meetings told ET, on condition of anonymity.
Bihar saw 56.6% polling in the 2015 elections, with women voter turnout being at 60.5%. The official quoted above said the focus is on ensuring 100% coverage of migrants who had returned and women voters in the voter lists. Camps were to be held if their participation is found to be low. Lakhs of migrant workers returned to Bihar during the lockdown.
More polling officials, especially women, could be needed as the number of polling stations would be increased due to Covid-19 protocol, from 65,337 stations set up during the 2015 elections, the EC team is said to have told officials.
Ensuring enough entry-exit points to a polling booth, avoiding overcrowding and proper arrangements for screening voters for fever were also impressed upon the local officials by the EC team. Directions have been given on ensuring the participation of disabled voters as well.
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