22 Aug 2020: Bihar polls: EC lets coronavirus patients vote, but with conditions
In Bihar Assembly polls, the first large-scale elections to be held after coronavirus pandemic, people displaying high temperature, a symptom of the highly-contagious disease, and quarantined patients, will be allowed to cast their votes, the broad guidelines issued by Election Commission on Friday said.
However, these patients will get inked during the last hour of polling.
Notably, the elections are due in October-November.
Changes: More hours, mandatory gloves: EC changed guidelines in coronavirus-era
As opposed to earlier polls, when 1,500 voters were allowed, only 1,000 can cast their votes at one polling station this time, the guidelines said.
The top polling body is also looking at increasing the voting hours. All voters will be given gloves for pressing the button at EVM and signing the book.
Moreover, their temperatures will also be checked at the booths.
Fact: If high temperature is recorded, it will be re-checked
"If the temperature is above the set norms of MoHFW at first reading, then it will be checked twice, and if it remains (high), then the elector shall be provided with token/certificate and will be asked to come for voting at last hour of poll," EC added.
Plans: Technical staffers will get health insurance
Like voters, special arrangements have also been made for technical staffers, directly involved with EVMs. As per Indian Express, health insurance has been provided to them, especially after some of them tested positive.
EC has also suggested keeping an adequate number of polling staffers in reserve, in case the deployed ones display COVID-19 symptoms. EVMs will also be kept in stock.
Campaigning: EC lays rules for less elaborate door-to-door campaign
About campaigning, EC said only a group of people can go door-to-door to seek votes. In roadshows, a convoy has to be broken after five vehicles and there must be a difference of at least 100 meter between the sets.
While large gatherings are prohibited till August 31, as part of Unlock 3 guidelines, EC is said to have allowed them for polls.
Gatherings: Public gatherings allowed, but social distancing mandatory
As per TOI, public gatherings will only be allowed at grounds, identified by the district election officer. Other than specified entry and exit points, circles will be drawn at these grounds to maintain distance.
Moreover, DEO and police will ensure that only a permitted number of people attend the gathering.
The limit will be decided by the State Disaster Management Authority.
Booths: Over 30,000 polling booths could be added
Earlier, Bihar Chief Electoral Officer HR Srinivas hinted at an increase in the number of polling stations. While 77,000 booths were used in the last polls, 33,000 could be added this time to avoid crowding.
EC formed guidelines after suggestions from all stakeholder political parties. A few, like NDA ally LJP and opposition RJD, suggested deferring the polls, while BJP wanted spending limit to be raised.
Numbers: Coronavirus emerges as key issue in Bihar polls
Unsurprisingly, coronavirus will remain an issue during the much-awaited polls, where incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is eyeing another term.
The opposition has been cornering him over the rise in COVID-19 cases in Bihar, less testing, poor infrastructure, and deaths of frontline warriors. At 117,671 total cases, Bihar lost 588 people to the deadly virus.
So, will coronavirus really stop Kumar's winning streak? We will learn soon!