Separate Booths for Covid-19 Patients, Select Grounds For Rallies Likely as EC Readies Guidelines for Bihar Polls.

The Bihar elections may be held in two-three phases and the schedule is likely to be announced by September 20, sources said.

Separate polling booth for Covid-19 infected patients and designated grounds for rallies with clear cut markings to maintain social distancing are some of the guidelines being discussed by the Election Commission for the assembly elections in Bihar.

The commission has prepared a set of guidelines for holding the upcoming elections, the schedule for which is likely to be announced by September 20, sources told News18. Polls are due in the months of October-November in the state, which has, till date, witnessed 1.15 lakh COVID-19 cases, including 574 fatalities.

The EC is set to meet again on Friday, post which it is likely to announce the new set of rules for holding the elections as well as the political campaign. The guidelines will be framed based on the inputs of political parties and chief electoral officers of various states.

According to sources, the poll panel is preparing to increase the total number of polling booths by 50 per cent to ensure physical distancing while voting. The total number of polling stations are to be increased to around 1,06,000.

The separate booths for confirmed cases Covid-19 will have trained staff in complete personal protection equipment, sources said.

The EC will also ask local authorities to designate grounds for rallies with markings to maintain social distancing, and is also open to the concept of virtual campaigning for the elections.

The commission may leave it to the local authorities to decide the number of people who can participate after keeping in mind the size of the venue and social distancing norms, the sources said.

Sources said it is likely that the assembly elections this time are held in two or three phases, down from the six phases in the previous election.

The guidelines are being prepared even as concerns are being voiced over holding of the election amid the pandemic.

On Thursday, former Union minister and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) convenor Yashwant Sinha on Thursday joined a host of political leaders to seek postponement of the polls.

Sinha said that it was an “irony” that political activities have been put on hold for now owing to the rise in number of coronavirus cases, but nothing was being done to delay the elections.

“I am of the view that assembly elections should not be held in the current scenario. Polls should be conducted later,” Sinha said, adding he worried that all polling booths will turn into coronavirus infection centres.

Except Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the BJP, almost all major political parties in Bihar, including NDA constituent LJP, have demanded that elections be postponed.

The term of the Bihar legislative Assembly comes to an end on 29 November and the polls are likely to he held sometime in October-November.

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