New Delhi: Bihar will go for a five-phased election for its 243-member assembly between October 12 and November 5, with 6.68 crore people eligible to exercise their franchise, the Election Commission said on Wednesday. The counting of votes will take place on November 8.
Announcing the dates for the crucial polls, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said the model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect.
Voting will take place across 62,779 polling stations, with the election process spread over three months apparently due to the festive season.
The first phase of polling for 49 seats will be held on October 12, the second phase for 32 seats on October 16, the third phase for 50 seats on October 28, the fourth phase for 55 seats on November 1 and the final phase for 57 seats on November 5.
"The Election Commission has made arrangements for free and fair polls. We have received more than adequate forces. Each polling booth will be manned by central police forces," Zaidi said.
He said 47 of the 243 constituencies were affected by Left-wing extremism.
The election, which is expected to witness a keen contest between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the combine of the Janata Dal-United, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, will have some firsts, including photograph of candidate on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).
"This is being done for the first time in an assembly poll. We received feedback about voters facing some confusion in case of presence of candidates having the same name," Zaidi said.
He said measures have been taken to check vehicles for any illicit flow of arms and liquor.
He said committees have been formed under the district magistrates for people to deposit their licensed weapons.
Zaidi said there was effective intelligence gathering and helicopters and motorboats will be used to keep vigil.
"Assessment (was being done) of all vulnerable points where anti-social elements can threaten voters," he said.
He said exit polls will be prohibited from the very first day of polling.
"As per law, exit poll will be prohibited from the first day of poll of the first phase till half an hour after the appointed time of the last polling day. This applies to both print and TV media," Zaidi said.
"Opinion poll under relevant law is prohibited in the last 48 hours for electronic media. Similarly, advertisements are also prohibited in the last 48 hours for the electronic media," he added.
He said Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) will first be used in 36 constituencies spread over 34 districts.
"This scaling up is being done following the Supreme Court order where they have said that the commission will increase the use of VVPAT in stages," he added.
Zaidi said electors will have the option to press 'NOTA' (None of the Above) in the balloting unit below the name of the last candidate.
"The commission is taking steps to bring this to the knowledge of voters," he said.
Referring to the issue of paid news, Zaidi said a mechanism has been laid out with three-tier media certification and monitoring committees (MCMC) at the level of district, state and the Election Commission.
The notification for the first phase of poll will be issued on September 16 and the last date of filing nominations for this phase is September 23.
The second phase nominations will close on September 28, the third phase on October 8, the fourth phase on October 14 and the fifth phase on October 15.
The term of the present Bihar assembly ends on November 29.
Zaidi said the commission will follow a policy of zero tolerance and will take appropriate action if any member of the election machinery is found to be biased in the enforcing of the model code of conduct.
"The election commission will ensure a level-playing field for all political parties and candidates," he said.