Sunday, 19 July,New Delhi: The high-stakes battle for Bihar, essentially between BJP and the ‘Janata Parivar’ is likely to be fought in a multi-phased election to the Assembly, probably between late October and early November sandwiched between festivals.
Election Commission sources said hectic work is on to tie up various issues before the full commission makes a visit to the Bihar for assessing the preparedness of the state’s electoral machinery ahead of finalising the poll schedule. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti are likely to visit Patna early next month for discussions with top officials of the administration and police and representatives of political parties.
The Commission is said to be looking at a window before festival season starts late October or to squeeze some phases between Dussehra and Diwali for holding the polls. Though a final decision is yet to be taken on the number of phases, it is likely to between four or five. The term of the 243-member Bihar assembly ends on November 29 and the new House should be in place before that. Elections under the Constitution can be held anytime six months before the due date.
After the thrashing in the Delhi Assembly elections, the BJP is setting great store by the Bihar elections where foes– Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad–have come together in an uneasy alliance. The Bihar polls will be followed by a round of Assembly elections in various states including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam.
As the Commission prepares to publish the final electoral rolls on July 31, a team sent by the poll panel to Bihar briefed it on Friday about the election preparedness of the official machinery. The team briefed the Commission about the progress in preparing the electoral rolls, vulnerability mapping of sensitive constituencies, awareness campaign for voters to get their names included in electoral rolls and threat perception.
Since Bihar will be a stand-alone election, EC hopes to get the required number of personnel from central forces for the assembly polls without much ado. The festival of chhath, which is an important event in Bihar, falls six days after Diwali that will be celebrated on November 11. Election Commission had dispatched four special teams of ‘auditors’ to the state for weeding out duplicate entries from electoral rolls.
The four teams comprising six officers each are part of the Commission’s newly-set up Regulatory Audit Division and Bihar is their first assignment. The Audit Division has been mandated to detect specific instances of non-adherence to the Commission’s guidelines or legal provisions required to be followed by the field election machinery.
Soon after the publication of electoral rolls on July 31, the state electoral machinery will commence the process of updating of electoral rolls to ensure that those left out are included. The EC will have to take into account weather conditions, festivals, exams, holidays, heavy monsoon, heavy rain and floods before arriving at exact schedule.
The poll watchdog has undertaken mapping of all constituencies of Bihar into three categories. Where EC finds maximum sensitivity, it plans to deploy central police forces “well in time,” a senior Commission functionary said. The Commission would be using voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in 36 of the 243 assembly constituencies but the number could increase.
VVPAT is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. An EVM will have a small attachment to it which after pressing the button for a desired candidate, will print that name on a paper. It will be stored inside the machine and can be used in case of any controversy over the final result.
Considering Left-wing extremism that affects parts of the state, an assessment of central paramilitary forces is also going on.