Despite doomsday predictions by the "extreme cynics" about holding Bihar Assembly elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation so far was reasonably good with two phases of voting completed, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said on Thursday. He said the voter turnout on October 28 and November 3 was more compared to the corresponding constituencies in the 2015 assembly polls and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
At the inauguration of the International Virtual Election Visitors Programme, Arora said the poll panel tested the ground by first holding Rajya Sabha elections amid the pandemic. Enthused, it decided to go for assembly polls in Bihar, he said. "There was no dearth of sceptics, no dearth of cynics, no dearth of extreme cynics who were making doomsday predictions for us… But here we are so far in a reasonably good shape," he said.
The last phase of polling in Bihar is on November 7 and counting of votes will take place on November 10. Arora said Bihar elections have shown that election management bodies across the world can hold polls.
Due to the pandemic, nearly 60 countries had postponed polls. Later, countries including Sri Lanka, South Korea, Croatia and Mangolia held elections. The Election Commission does meticulous planning for all polls. But this time, the "new dimension" of coronavirus created more challenges, the chief election commissioner said.
Arora told members of election management bodies from various countries who attended the programme that to ensure social-distancing norms, the number of voters per polling station in Bihar was reduced from 1,500 to 1000. This led to an increase in the number of polling stations by nearly 33,000. Those aged 80 years and above, and those with disabilities were given the option of using postal ballot. But most of them preferred to go to the polling booth to vote, he said.
Informing the participants that Bihar has had a history of caste tensions and communal issues, Arora said, "Most of it is past. But still, sometimes smoulderings can be observed.".