Bihar to decide the fate of 1,066 candidates on Wednesday across 71 assembly segments in the first phase of elections. Guidelines have been issued by the Election Commission for safe conduct of the electoral exercise, which takes place in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic. These include lowering the cap on the maximum number of voters for a polling booth from 1,600 to 1,000, staggering of polling hours and postal ballot facility for those aged above 80, or those afflicted with or suspected to be carrying the contagion. Beside sanitisation of electronic voting machines, wearing of masks and other protective gear by polling personnel and availability of thermal scanner, hand sanitiser, soap and water will be ensured. Of the 2.14 crore voters who will exercise their franchise, 1.01 crore are women and 599 belong to the third gender, according to data provided by the Election Commission. The candidates include 952 men and 114 women, the maximum number (27) being in the fray at Gaya Town and the minimum (5) at Katoria in Banka district. Among the major political parties, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) is contesting in 35 of the 71 seats, followed by its ally BJP (29), while the opposition RJD has fielded its candidates in 42 and its coalition partner Congress is in the fray in 20 assembly segments. Lok Janshakti Party, headed by Chirag Paswan, is in the fray in 41 seats, which include all the 35 contested by the JD(U), in keeping with the call given by the young party president, who recently pulled out of the NDA in the state, to “dislodge” the chief minister from power.