Bihar might be on the cusp of a major generational shift in politics as it braced for Tuesday’s counting of votes for the assembly election, with most pollsters predicting a landslide for the five-party Grand Alliance led by the young RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
The term of the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly comes to an end on 29 November. Of the total strength, 38 seats are reserved for SCs and two for STs. Counting will be taken up at 55 centres across 38 districts where the outcome will decide the fate of the Nitish Kumar government that has helmed the state for a decade and half.
Most exit polls have predicted a rout for the ruling JD(U)-BJP combine and a resounding victory for the Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) led by RJD’s 31-year-old chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav, who has thrown down the gauntlet at redoubtable Nitish Kumar, the battle-scarred veteran more than twice his age.
The Election Commission is making sure that the winds of potential change cause no disruption in the counting process. According to Chief Electoral Officer H R Srinavasa, central armed police forces have been deployed at the strong rooms, where the EVMs have been stored since the completion of voting, and the halls where these will be unsealed Tuesday morning after counting of postal ballots gets over.
The state has 243 assembly constituencies and the most keenly watched will obviously be Raghopur in Vaishali district from where Tejashwi Yadav is seeking re-election. Kumar is a member of the legislative council and has not contested the assembly election.
Raghopur has been in the past represented by his parents Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi both former chief ministers. Tejashwi’s elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav is
contesting from Hasanpur in Samastipur district.
In addition, Tuesday’s counting will also decide the political fate of nearly a score of ministers.
Prominent among them are Nand Kishore Yadav (Patna Sahib), Pramod Kumar (Motihari), Rana Randhir (Madhuban), Suresh Sharma (Muzaffarpur), Shrawan Kumar (Nalanda), Jai Kumar Singh (Dinara) and Krishnanandan Prasad Verma (Jehanabad).
With much of the NDA’s election narrative focusing on RJD’s association with “jungle raj”, an allusion to the alleged collapsed law and order during the 15 years when Lalu-Rabri ruled the state in succession, the fate of “bahubalis”, leaders known for strong arm tactics, will also be keenly watched.
Two of the most notorious criminal-turned-politicians-Anant Singh (Mokama) and Reetlal Yadav (Danapur)- are contesting on RJD tickets.
A win for the RJD-led coalition will bring a redemption of sorts for Tejashwi Yadav whose leadership abilities were called into question after his party failed to
win a single seat in the Lok Sabha elections last year. The NDA had won 39 of the 40 seats and one had gone to the Congress, an RJD ally.
It may also revive the fortunes of the three Left parties–The CPI, CPI-M and CPI-ML–which were consigned to near oblivion over the past two decades. The five-party ‘Mahagathbandhan’ also comprises these three Left parties, which were a force to reckon with in the past.
Election officials and district administrations face the daunting task of restraining supporters of political parties from crowding the counting centres amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Prohibitory orders will be be place outside the counting centres to prevent people from gathering in large numbers, officials said.
According to Srinivasa, while 19 companies of the central armed police forces will be deployed at strong rooms and the halls where counting will take place, another 59 have been entrusted with maintaining law and order. Each company comprises roughly 100 personnel.
Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) Jitendra Kumar said Bihar Military Police and local police will also chip in while senior officials will keep a watch through display screens connected to CCTV cameras installed at the counting centres.
Election Commission Preparations
The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for counting of votes on November 10 for the Bihar assembly polls as the state awaits results of a closely-fought election. The poll panel said it has set up a total of 55 counting centres, housing 414 halls, spread across all the 38 districts of the state that voted in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7.
The maximum three counting centres each have been set up in four districts of East Champaran (which has 12 assembly constituencies), Gaya (10 constituencies), Siwan (eight constituencies) and Begusarai (seven). Rest other districts either have one or two counting centres each.
Considering the fact that coronavirus is raging in the state, steps have been taken to ensure that COVID guidelines are strictly followed during the counting. Face masks will be mandatory for entering into the counting centres besides sanitisers will be kept in adequate quantity there.
In the state capital Patna, votes for all the 14 assembly constituencies will be counted at just one centre set up at A.N. College. The poll panel said it is readying 30 counting halls at the college.
Bihar Chief Electoral Officer H R Srinivasa on Sunday said the Election Commission has established a three-tier security system for strong rooms (housing the Electronic Voting Machines) and the counting centres. The inner core is being guarded by the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), then there is the Bihar Military Police (BMP) and then the district police, he told reporters.
“We have deployed 19 companies of CAPF just for the security of the strong rooms and counting centres. Besides, we have 59 CAPF companies to ensure law and order during and in the aftermath of the counting process,” he had said. One CAPF company comprises around 100 personnel.
The CEO said the Election Commission will strictly deal with any “anti-social” elements who indulges in “hooliganism” during or in the aftermath of the counting. Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) Jitendra Kumar said CCTV cameras have been installed in the control rooms.
“Their display is in the District Election Officers offices. And they are also being monitored regularly by the Chief Electoral Officer,” he had said. After the counting commences at 8 am, the postal ballots — cast by staff on poll duty and service voters will be — will be opened first followed by EVM votes.
In Bhagalpur district, which has two counting centres Government Polytechnic College, Barari and Women’s ITI — preparations are being made for the November 10 results for seven assembly seats. Display screens are being set up and two tents being erected at each counting centre for journalists and security personnel. Arrangements are being made to put seven tables in each of the 14 halls.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) have been imposed in and around the counting centres to prevent gathering of people. In Bhojpur district, the votes for all the seven assembly constituencies will be counted at one centre set up at Bazar Samiti Godown, Arrah.
A majority exit polls released after the third and final round of polls suggest that Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbandhan might have an edge over the NDA. But, who will actually get the magic figure of 122 in the house of 243 will be known only after the votes are counted on Tuesday.
(With PTI inputs)