The stage is all set for the first phase of voting for the Bihar Assembly elections here on Wednesday. This is also the first poll being held amid Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of the 71 constituencies in Bihar, where polling will take place on October 28, are in the naxal-infested zone of Magadh, Shahbad and Munger region. Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the Maoist-hit belt.
One such seat is Imamganj in Gaya, where all eyes are on former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is pitted against former Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary. Incidentally, till five years ago, both Choudhary and Manjhi were JD (U) MLAs. But on Wednesday, Manjhi will be testing the electoral water as HAM (Hindustan Awam Morcha) candidate, while his rival Choudhary is the RJD nominee.
Bihar will have a three-phase election beginning tomorrow. The second and the third phase of voting will take place on November 3 and November 7, while counting of votes for the 243 Assembly seats will take place on November 10.
The Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is seeking a fourth straight term, is pitted against his former deputy and the Mahagatbandhan Chief Ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav, who is giving him a tough fight in this part of the Hindi heartland.
While the JD (U), BJP, HAM and the new entrant Vikashsheel Insaan Party (VIP) form the NDA, the Mahagatbandhan is led by RJD and has Congress and Left parties as its alliance partners.
The NDA former ally, the LJP, is contesting on its own and has fielded 137 candidates, mostly against the JD (U) nominees. It has claimed that it would oust Nitish Kumar and form a Government along with the BJP after the elections, thereby confusing the voters.
The Election Commission, meanwhile, has asked the officials to adhere to all the basic guidelines required for voting during Covid-19. To reduce over-crowding at the polling booths, it has decreased the number of voters from 1600 to 1000 per booth and has made wearing mask mandatory for anyone coming to the polling booth.