The Bihar assembly polls could be a month-long exercise spread over four to seven phases from mid-October, sources in the Election Commission said.
The poll dates would be announced by mid-September as the Election Commission has started working on the schedule after its team visited the state last week, the sources said. The entire process is likely to conclude by November 20, nine days before a new assembly is notified.
The ruling JD-U and the RJD will contest in 100 seats in the Bihar assembly polls and the Congress will fight for 40, the three parties have announced, formally unveiling an anti-BJP grand alliance in the election-bound state.
Political analysts have dubbed this election the “battle for Bihar” as a lot is at stake for chief minister Nitish Kumar-led RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance and the NDA, which have already started a high-pitched campaign.
The Election Commission has ruled out the possibility of holding election in September-October because late monsoon rains could impede the exercise.
“We have time till November 29 to hold polls and there is no reason for us to advance the polls,” a central poll official said.
Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi and election commissioner Achal Kumar Jyoti have started consultations within the commission and with other agencies on preparations.
Sources said the commission would consult the home and railway ministries, which facilitate security and transport, before fixing the dates.
As first steps, electoral rolls for Bihar have been notified and the state chief electoral officer was asked to initiate preparations, an official said.
The usual practice is to announce the dates 30-45 days after the rolls are notified. This gives election officers time to consider objections of political parties and voters about the voter list.
Maoist-affected areas could vote in the initial phases and the schedule might see a break to allow people to celebrate Diwali on November 11 and the six-day Chhath Puja.
This election will be webcast for the first time and voters can locate their polling booth on phones.
Officials said the state election office have been told to set up more polling booths to avoid overcrowding. The commission will seek adequate security forces to conduct free and fair polls.