Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Indian Election Begins with 17 Terror Murders

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Indian Election Begins with 17 Terror Murders

Article excerpt

Byline: JACK LEFLEY

THE first day of voting in the Indian elections today was marred by attacks by Maoist insurgents that left 17 people dead.

Rebels struck in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa in a bid to disrupt the first phase of polling in the month-long general election.

Vicitms of the string of attacks included five election officials and 10 policemen.

The world's biggest election will be a month-long process but it is not expected to yield a clear winner.

The vote is the first of five phases in which about 714 million people 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 guerrillas, known as Naxalites, have fought the government for decades in 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 voters after a lacklustre campaign that has been devoid of a central issue, mirroring a country fragmented by differences of region, religion and caste.

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.

Congress, which is ending a fiveyear stint in power, has seen its main achievement -- India's spectacular economic growth -- hit by the global economic crisis. …

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