NEW DELHI, Sept 9 - Assembly elections in Bihar will be fought in five phases between October 12 and November 5 in a high-stakes battle that is seen as a major popularity test for NDA spearhead Prime Minister Narendra Modi and incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is in alliance with RJD and Congress.
Announcing the poll schedule, the Election Commission said that counting of votes will be held on November 8, just three days before Diwali and the locally significant Chhath Puja that follows the festival of lights.
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said polls to the 243-seat Assembly will be held on October 12, 16, 28, November 1 and 5. The term of the current Assembly expires on November 29.
The battle for power in Bihar assumes significance in the context of Modi leading the NDA charge after BJP�s debacle in the Delhi Assembly polls early this year. Recently Modi announced a Rs 1.65 lakh-crore package for Bihar in his bid to end the two-decade reign of the Lalu-Nitish combine.
The BJP and the ruling JD(U) ended the alliance after 8 years in power when Nitish Kumar parted ways over Modi being anointed the campaign chief of BJP in 2013 for the Lok Sabha elections.
Noting that a number of important festivals, like Dussehra, Muharram, Diwali and Chhath will fall in the election period, Zaidi said the Commission will ensure communal harmony and peace.
Flanked by Election Commissioners Achal Kumar Joti and Om Prakash Rawat, Zaidi told a press conference that more than adequate security arrangements have been made by the election body to ensure peaceful, free-and-fair polls in the State where over 47 constituencies are hit by Left wing extremism.
This time, the EC has ensured that Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel are deployed in all the 62,779 polling stations of the State. There are over 6.68 crore voters in the State.
The poll machinery has also decided that police personnel will use horses and motorbikes in difficult terrains to keep a check on trouble makers. � PTI