Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora on Wednesday said the Election Commission was "discouraged" from holding the Bihar Assembly polls amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the poll panel was of the view that carrying out the electoral exercise was a "leap of faith and not a leap in the dark".
In a break from the past, the CEC attended the poll panel briefing in New Delhi to announce the voter turnout in the first phase of the Bihar Assembly elections held on Wednesday. Usually, the briefing is held by the deputy election commissioners concerned.
The chief election commissioner and fellow election commissioners announce the schedule for the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
In his opening remarks, Mr Arora said, "We (the Election Commission) were, in a way I would say, were also discouraged from holding elections amid COVID. But you would recall I had said on September 25 (when Bihar poll schedule was announced) that for the EC, this poll is a leap of faith and not leap in the dark."
He, however, did not say who had discouraged the poll watchdog. Some opposition parties had urged the poll panel to postpone the elections due to the pandemic.
Mr Arora said the voter turnout in phase one of the Bihar assembly elections was 52.24 per cent till 5 pm. Another senior poll panel official later said the "projected" turnout was expected to be more than that recorded during the 2015 Assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections.
A total of 71 assembly constituencies of Bihar went to polls on Wednesday in the first of the three-phase elections amid tight security and with COVID-19 guidelines in place.
Polling began at 7 am and ended at 6 pm. The poll timing was increased by an hour to allow those with temperature and those who tested positive for coronavirus cast their vote in the last hour.
Of the nearly 2.15 crore electorate eligible to exercise their 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.
Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of electronic voting machines said the functioning of the EVMs was "very satisfactory". He also said 0.22 per cent of the total 41,689 ballot units, 0.25 per cent of the total 31,371 control units and 1.28 per cent of the total 31,371 paper trail machines were replaced.