The process for the four-phased assembly elections in Bihar got underway on Friday with the issue of notification by Governor Buta Singh for holding polls in 61 constituencies in the first phase on October 18.
With this the second electoral battle for power within a year has begun in the state.
The constituencies going to polls in the first phase are in Naxalite-hit Patna, Rohtas, Kaimur, Buxar, Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Gaya, Arwal, Nawada, Jamui and Banka districts.
The polling will be spread over a month because of major religious festivals and also to ensure adequate security in the wake of concerns over the law and order situation in the state.
The start of the process comes amidst hearing by the Supreme Court of a PIL by BJP and JD (U) members of the dissolved assembly challenging the dissolution.
The Apex court is likely to pronounce its verdict shortly and, if it strikes down the dissolution, the poll process could be annulled by the Election Commission.
The other three phases of polls are scheduled to be held on October 26, November 13 and 19, while counting will take place on November 22.
Polling would be conducted through electronic voting machines (EVMS).
Of the total 243 assembly constituencies, 61 will go to polls in the first phase, 69 in the second phase, 72 in the third phase and 41 in the last phase.
There are 5.27 crore electorate for whom an estimated 7,300 auxiliary polling stations would be set up in addition to 50,063 polling booths set up in the last elections.
Chief Election Commissioner BB Tandon has visited the politically volatile state as many as five times, twice with the full three-member Commission, to review the preparations.
The Commission took stock of poll arrangements, including preparation and distribution of Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC), execution of pending non-bailable warrants of arrest, seizure of illicit firearms and unearthing of illegal arms manufacturing units with state's top officials on September 21.
While the EC has asked the state authorities to speed up the process of issuing EPICs, it has voiced concern over unsatisfactory execution of NBWs against absconders and recovery of illicit firearms.
A large number of IAS and IPS officers and of the state service have been transferred on the instruction of the EC on charges of being "tainted" or having completed three years or more at one place.
The state is set to witness a triangular contest between the NDA and two warring factions of the Centre's ruling UPA, one headed by RJD leader Lalu Prasad and another by LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan.
While RJD has the support of Congress, CPI(M) and NCP, LJP has aligned with CPI and is trying to rope in RSP, Forward Bloc, CPI(ML) and Samajwadi Party.