The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday announced the schedule for Bihar Assembly polls 2020. Voting for Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases — first on October 28, second on November 3 and the third on November 7 — while counting of all votes will take place on November 10, the Election Commission announced on Friday.

Announcing the three-phase election, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora called it a “leap of faith”, pointing out that medical and engineering exams JEE and NEET took place recently and a large number of students sat for them. “COVID doesn’t show any sign of going down. Some way had to be found to choose representatives and protect the health of people. Life has to go on,” he told reporters.

“The world has changed significantly since the last elections, which were held for the Delhi assembly. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a new normal in every aspect of our life,” Mr Arora said.

As soon as the dates are announced, the Model Code of Conduct will be enforced in the state. Bihar has to elect a new 243-member assembly by November 29. The Election Commission has decided not to hold 65 pending by-elections to fill vacancies in various assemblies and one in Lok Sabha simultaneously with the Bihar elections. The bypolls were already deferred due to excessive rains and the pandemic.

Amid the pandemic, several measures have been taken for campaigning and polling to ensure safety of leaders and voters. Polling has been extended by one hour from 7 am to 6 pm. The last hour will be reserved for those with Covid-19 and who are quarantined.

Several countries have held elections amid the pandemic. However, CEC Arora said the Bihar polls are likely to be the largest elections conducted during the pandemic given there are with 72.9 million electors in the state.