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Decision on Bihar assembly poll schedule soon: CEC Sunil Arora

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NEW DELHI: Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Monday said a decision on the Bihar assembly election schedule will be taken soon.

A team of the Election Commission (EC) plans to visit the poll-bound state within the next two to three days.

Arora said amid Covid-19, the poll commission norms have to be reviewed to ensure social distancing measures are maintained in the state with 72.9 million electors.

“The maximum number of electors at a polling station was reduced from 1,500 to 1,000. Consequently, the number of polling stations jumped by 40 per cent — from 65,000 to over 100,000. These changes have huge logistics and manpower implications. Very recently, two deputy commissioners have reviewed the ground situation in Bihar. The commission will be taking a call in a day or two on visiting the state,” said Arora.

Addressing the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WeB), which the EC is currently chairing, Arora said election bodies across the world are facing the “tough predicament” of whether and how to hold elections in a state of public health emergency.

He pointed to “formidable challenges” in Indian elections on account of large electorate, geographical and linguistic diversity and differing climatic conditions.

The CEC was addressing EC’s international webinar as the A-web chair on the theme ‘‘Issues, Challenges and Protocols for Conducting Elections during COVID-19: Sharing Country Experiences”. Over 120 delegates from 45 countries participated.

According to Arora, the number of electors in Bihar has risen from 67 million in 2015 to 72.9 million in 2020. There are 38.5 million male voters — up from 35.7 in 2015 and 34.3 female voters vis a vis 31.2 million in 2015.

He pointed out that given the sheer numbers, the upcoming election would probably be the largest one to be held amid the pandemic and necessitated considerable revision in EC’s instructions.

After Bihar, elections are due in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Naduin the first half of 2021.

He emphasised on extending facilitation to senior citizens, women, persons with disabilities and in ensuring franchise to Covid-19 positive voters and those in quarantine.

While the postal ballot facility has been extended to Covid positive electors who are in quarantine/hospitals, detailed guidelines have been drawn up on conducting elections amid pandemic.

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