The counting of votes for the recently-concluded Bihar Assembly Election 2020 will begin at 8 am today. Bihar is the first state in the country to go to polls amid the raging coronavirus pandemic. The elections, held in three phases, saw a voter turn out of a little over 57%, marginally higher than that recorded in 2015 despite the pandemic, reported news agency PTI referring to Election Commission data.
The election is seen as a crucial one for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who is seeking a fourth straight term in office. In a shock announcement at his last rally before the model code of conduct set in before the third phase of voting, Nitish Kumar said this would be his last election. "Ant bhala to sab bhala (All's well that ends well)," the chief minister had said, hinting at possible retirement. His party, however, has brushed off the remark and issued a clarification.
RJD's Tejashwi Yadav has turned out to be a huge challenge for the incumbent BJP-JDU alliance in the state with massive crowds in his 215 campaign rallies and most exit polls putting the Mahagathbandhan at an advantageous position to form the next government in the state.
Here we answer your most Frequently Asked Questions about the Bihar Assembly Election 2020:
How many Assembly Seats does Bihar have?
There are 243 Assembly constituencies in Bihar. The state voted in three phases this election. 71 constituencies in 16 districts voted in Phase 1 held on October 28, 94 constituencies in 17 districts went to polls in Phase 2 on November 3 while 78 constituencies in 15 districts exercised their franchise in Phase 3 on November 7.
When will counting begin and when will the results be announced?
The counting of votes will begin at 8 am today. The postal ballots -- cast by staff on poll duty and service voters -- will be opened first followed by EVM votes. The result is expected to be announced later in the day unless it's a tight contest.
Who are the main candidates contesting the election?
Janata Dal United's Nitish Kumar, a five-time chief minister, is seeking his fourth straight term in office. He is also the National Democratic Alliance's chief ministerial candidate.
Rashtriya Janata Dal's chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav and the NDA's biggest challenge will be the youngest chief minister of a state if elected. The young leader has promised 10 lakh jobs for Bihar if voted to power.
Lok Janshakti Party's Chirag Paswan fought the election alone after a rift with the NDA.
What are the main blocs in this election?
Two major alliances are in the race to the top in Bihar:
The National Democratic Alliance, comprising BJP, JD(U), the Vikassheel Insaan Party and Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustan Awam Morcha.
The Mahagathbandhan with RJD, Congress, the Left and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
How many seats does each party have?
JD(U) with 122 seats this election has emerged as the big brother in the alliance with BJP contesting 121 seats.
The RJD has fielded candidates from 144 seats with the Congress being allotted 70 and the left parties 29. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha got seats from RJD's quota.
LJP is fighting on 137 seats.
What are bellwether seats?
Bellwether seats are those that have historically voted for the winner. The sentiment in the run up to the polls and early trends on counting day in these seats often act as some of the surest indications of what the outcome will be.
Who are the chief ministerial candidates?
Nitish Kumar is the NDA's choice for chief minister while Tejashwi Yadav is the Mahagathbandhan's. Chirag Paswan has been projected as LJP's chief ministerial candidate.
What does the Exit Poll say?
An aggregate of opinion polls indicated that the opposition coalition will win 128 of Bihar's 243 seats and the NDA, 99. Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party or LJP is likely to win six seats, the math indicated. The majority mark in the state is 122.
Disclaimer: Exit polls can often get it wrong.
How many people were eligible to vote in this election?
Bihar had over seven crore eligible voters, making it one of the biggest elections globally to be held amid the coronavirus pandemic.
How coronavirus impacted Bihar Assembly Election 2020?
The raging coronavirus pandemic warranted special protocol during the campaign and voting this election. Virtual rallies gained momentum this election as an alternative to holding rallies on the ground, although as voting dates closed in, all parties resorted to campaigning on the ground, meeting with their electorates. The Election Commission allowed an extra hour of voting in the three phases for Covid patients and those in quarantine. It was mandatory for voters to wear masks and maintain social distancing at the poll booths. The number of phases were reduced to three from the usual five to minimise the risk of spread. Steps have also been taken to ensure that COVID-19 guidelines are strictly followed during the counting at various centres. Face masks have been made mandatory for those entering these centres and adequate quantity of sanitisers has been made available.
How did the political parties fare in the previous election?
In 2015, Nitish Kumar's JD(U), Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD and the Congress fought the election together as the Mahagathbandhan or "Grand Alliance", winning 178 of 243 seats. The BJP, along with its allies Lok Janshakti Party, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha, won 58 seats. But two years later, in 2017, Nitish Kumar dumped the Grand Alliance over corruption allegations against his deputy Lalu Prasad Yadav's son Tejashwi Yadav and teamed up with his old ally - BJP. The ruling NDA currently has 130 seats while the Grand Alliance, which now includes the Left as well, has 100 seats.
What is an EVM?
An EVM or Electronic Voting Machine is an electronic device for recording votes. It consists of two units - a control unit and a balloting unit.
What are VVPATs?
Since 2010, the Election Commission has been phasing in a third unit called the VVPAT or the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, which allows voters to verify that their votes have been recorded correctly by printing a paper receipt.