Bihar voted in the first of its three-phase Assembly election on Wednesday. This is the first election being held amid the COVID-19 pandemic and hence elaborate arrangements for safety have been made as per the directions of the Election Commission.

Voting is taking place in 71 of the 243 seats in the state. The second and third phase of elections are scheduled on November 3 and 7. Results will be out on November 10.

The election will decide whether Nitish Kumar can win for the fourth term as chief minister of Bihar. His main contender this time has been Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav who has created a huge wave in the run-up to the elections. Son of Lalu Yadav – Tejashwi Yadav is the chief ministerial candidate of Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress and Left parties. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and job losses, he has promised 10 lakh jobs for people in the state.

The other factor in the Bihar election this time is Chirag Paswan, son of the late Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan. His rebellion against Nitish Kumar is being said to be backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, though Kumar’s Janata Dal United is part of the ruling ally in Bihar (with the BJP) and a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre. There has however, been a distance between the allies, with very few BJP leaders campaigning for the alliance and posters and hoardings not mentioning each other either. While Paswan has been criticising Kumar and rebelled against his leadership and declared that his party will contest alone, he has declared loyalty to the BJP. But the BJP despite declaring Nitish Kumar as the CM candidate, has not taken any action against Paswan, leading to speculations that Chirag Paswan has the backing of the party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asked people to go out and vote and to follow the COVID-19 safety measures.

The Election Commission has issued a number of guidelines in view of the COVID-19 pandemic – as this is the first election being held in the country after the outbreak. Staggered polling hours, postal ballot for those above 80 or those infected, sanitised electronic voting machines (EVMs), soaps and water for voters, lowering the number of voters per booth – are among the various measures taken.

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