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Elections to the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly would be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and 7 with votes counted on November 10, the Election Commission of India announced on September 25.

Addressing a press conference at the ECI headquarters in New Delhi, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said that in the first phase of voting on October 28, 71 assembly constituencies in 16 districts will go to polls. In the second phase, 94 constituencies in 17 districts will vote on November 3 while in the third and last phase 78 constituencies in 15 districts will vote on November 7.

With the announcement of schedule, the model code of conduct has come into force. Over 7.2 crore voters will be eligible to cast their vote across nearly 42,000 polling stations.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, special arrangements have been made for campaigning as well as casting of votes.

“To decongest the polling stations and allow more movement of voters, polling time has been increased by one hour. It will be held from 7 am to 6 pm, instead of 7 am to 5 pm earlier,” Arora said.

However, the increased voting time will not be applicable to insurgency-affected areas, he stated.

The COVID-19 patients who are under quarantine, will be able to cast their vote at the last hour of the day at their respective polling stations, Arora said.

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For campaigning, special norms have been drawn up. “Social distancing norms will have to be followed at public gatherings during the election campaign,” the CEC stated.

Door-to-door campaign has been restricted to five including the candidate and number of people accompanying a candidate for submission of nomination restricted to two, Arora said.

For safety, more than seven lakhs units of hand sanitizers, about 46 lakhs masks, six lakhs PPE kits, 7.6 lakhs face kits, and 23 lakhs hand gloves have been arranged while nodal health officers will also be appointed.

The term of Bihar assembly is due to expire on November 29. As many as 38 seats are reserved for SCs and two for STs.

In the present assembly, 69 seats are held by Janata Dal, 54 by Bharatiya Janata Party, 73 Rashtriya Janata Dal, 23 Indian National Congress while rest by other parties and Independents. As many as 12 seats are vacant.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on September 25 refused to entertain a plea seeking to postpone the elections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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