Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Terrorists Kill Voters as Indian Elections Begin

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Terrorists Kill Voters as Indian Elections Begin

Article excerpt

Byline: JACK LEFLEY

THE first day of voting in the Indian elections today was marred by attacks from Maoist insurgents that have killed several people.

As voters began to go to the polls rebels blew up an election officer's car with a landmine in the Jagdalpur area of Chhattisgarh, killing at least five people, according to reports on Indian television.

It followed the killing of two security guards at a polling booth in Gaya, Bihar, in an attack that also saw two women voters shot and wounded. Another six people were reportedly killed by insurgents in Latehar, Jharkhand.

The world's biggest election will be a month-long process expected to yield no clear winner to lead India as it grapples with the global economic malaise. The vote is the first of five phases in which about 714 million people -- more than twice the population of the US -- will be eligible to cast ballots.

Today's polling includes central and eastern states battered by attacks by Maoist militants, leading to the deployment of tens of thousands of soldiers and police.

The guerillas, known as Naxalites, have fought the government for decades in a handful of rural regions, charging authorities with plundering natural resources while providing little for local residents..

Since Saturday, more than a dozen police officers have died in their attacks. With more than 1.2 billion citizens, India normally holds staggered elections for logistical and security reasons.

Results of the massive election, which will use more than 1.3 million electronic voting machines in 828,804 polling stations, are expected on 16 May. But few expect a clear mandate from the Indian voter after a lacklustre campaign that has been devoid of a central issue, mirroring a country fragmented by differences of region, religion and caste -- the country's complex Hindu social system.

Polls indicate that neither the governing Congress party nor the main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, will win enough seats in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament to rule on their own. …

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