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Millions of Indians due to vote

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 16, 2009
Election rally in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh
Some 714 million people – more than twice the population of the United States – are eligible to cast ballots in the five phases of the election


Millions of Indians are due to vote in the first round of the country’s 15th general elections.

Voters in 124 constituencies will be taking part in the vote. There are four other phases between it and the last phase on 13 May.

More than 700 million Indians overall are eligible to vote for seats in the lower house of parliament.

The incumbent Congress-led coalition government is facing a challenge from the main opposition BJP-led alliance.

It is also competing against a third front of communist and regional parties in a poll that is too close to call.

Results are due on 16 May and a new parliament must be in place by 2 June.

Local issues

The first voting takes place in constituencies spread across the country, including volatile areas in north and central India.

Eligible voters: 714 million
Polling centres: 828,804
Voting days: 16, 23, 30 April; 7, 13 May
Vote counting: 16 May
Leading candidates: Manmohan Singh (Congress), LK Advani (BJP), Mayawati

States where voting takes place are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Lakshwadeep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

More than two million security personnel are expected to be deployed, especially after a string of recent attacks by Maoist rebels who have threatened to disrupt the vote.

Thousands of police and paramilitary troops have been deployed across the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which will vote for both national and state assembly representatives.

“We have taken every necessary measure to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections. Now you go out and vote,” state director general of police AK Mohanty said in the state capital, Hyderabad.

Thousands of troops have also been placed on alert in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which has the most seats in the national parliament. Polling will take place for 16 of the state’s 80 seats.

Security concerns are also likely to be high in the eastern state of Bihar, where heavily armed Maoist rebels on Wednesday attacked a paramilitary camp set up for the elections, wounding one soldier, senior police official Vikas Vaibhav told the Associated Press news agency.

The district where the attack took place is 140km (87 miles) south-west of the state capital, Patna. It too goes to the polls Thursday.

Neither of the two main parties in the election – Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – is expected to gain a clear majority.

Both may have to depend on the support of smaller parties to form a government – and correspondents say the campaign rhetoric in recent days has become increasingly bitter.

While security and the economy are key election issues, especially after last year’s attacks in Mumbai (Bombay), global economic meltdown and local and regional issues are all expected to be key issues.

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