Polling began Wednesday morning in 71 assembly constituencies of Bihar in the first phase of three-phase elections amid tight security and Covid-19 guidelines in place.
Over 46.29 per cent voter turnout has been recorded till 3 PM in the first phase of Bihar assembly polls on Wednesday, the Election Commission said in its provisional data.
A total of 71 assembly segments of the state's 243 constituencies are voting in the first phase in which nearly 2.15 crore voters will decide the electoral fate of over 1,000 candidates.
With the progress of time, voters turnout at booths has been increasing at several places notwithstanding raging coronavirus cases in the state.
As per the provisional voter turnout data updated by the Election Commission at 3 PM, 46.29 per cent of the total electorates have exercised their franchise.
The 71 constituencies are spread across 16 districts.
The maximum 40.16 per cent turnout has been recorded in Lakhisarai, followed by Nawada (38.08%) and Patna, Jamui and Bhagalpur (over 34 per cent).
Among other districts, Banka has recorded 33.14 per cent turnout, Gaya 32.90 per cent and Rohtas 30.26 per cent.
Union minister and senior BJP leader Giriraj Singh cast his vote at a polling booth in Lakhisarai, while former Bihar chief minister and HAM president Jitan Ram Manjhi exercised his franchise at a booth in Gaya.
Munger recorded a turnout of 15.71 per cent, Rohtas 15.32 per cent, Arwal 14.81 per cent, Jamui 13.91 per cent, Jehanabad 11.39 per cent, Bhagalpur 6.84 per cent and Patna 5.96 per cent.
State ministers and also candidates from different constituencies- Vijay Sinha and Krishnandan Verma- and commonwealth games gold medal winning shooter Shreyasi Singh, BJP nominee from Jamui seat, cast their vote.
Of the nearly 2.15 crore electors eligible to exercise the franchise, 1.12 crore are male, 1.01 crore female and 599 are categorised as third gender, according to data provided by the Election Commission.
Guidelines have been issued by the Commission for safe conduct of the electoral exercise in the midst of the raging Covid-19 pandemic.
These guidelines include lowering the maximum number of voters for a polling booth from 1,600 to 1,000, staggering of polling hours and extending postal ballot facility for those above 80.
Besides, sanitisation of electronic voting machines, wearing of masks and other protective gear by polling personnel and the availability of thermal scanner, hand sanitiser, soap and water has also to be ensured at polling stations.
The candidates in the fray in the first phase include 952 men and 114 women.
As many as 33 of the constituencies going to polls in the first phase have been declared as “sensitive or hypersensitive” constituencies, the poll panel said.
It said 31,371 polling stations have been set up in this phase and as many Electronic Voting Machines and Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines will be used.
Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) Jitendra Kumar told PTI-Bhasha that security forces have been deployed in adequate strength at all polling stations and the buildings housing them.
The local police has also been used to supplement the paramilitary forces wherever required, he said, adding the services of home guard jawans will also be taken at polling stations for works like maintaining the queue.
He said that as a precautionary measure, all security personnel deployed on poll duty have been given a coronavirus kit which has a face mask, gloves, a face shield and sanitisers.
He said special security arrangements have been made for the Naxal-affected areas. Most of the state’s Naxal-hit areas are going to polls in the first phase, he said.
The administration will keep an aerial vigil also and one helicopter will be used for the purpose, he said.
Announcing the election schedule for the 243-member assembly on September 25, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had said that polls will open as usual at 7 am but the voting hour will be extended by one hour until 6 pm, except in the Left Wing Extremism affected areas, so that Covid-19 patients can vote in the last hour of the day.
"Bihar assembly polls will be one of the biggest elections globally to be held during prevailing Covid-19 situation," Arora had said.
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