India elections 2014: Second phase of Lok Sabha polling under way in North Eastern
Indians are voting on the first big day of the general election pitting the ruling Congress party against the main opposition BJP.
Polling is being held in 91 seats in 14 states, including in the capital Delhi and the key states of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Orissa.
The nine-phase vote began on Monday, April 7, and will conclude on May 12. Votes will be counted on May 16.
More than 814 million Indians are eligible to vote in the polls.
Two soldiers were killed and three others injured in a landmine explosion blamed on Maoist rebels in Jamui, a rebel stronghold in the eastern state of Bihar, police said.
The blast occurred before polling began, but voting has remained unaffected in the area.
Voters have turned out enthusiastically to cast their ballots in the politically crucial northern state of Uttar Pradesh which sends the maximum number of lawmakers to the parliament.
Some 16 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in 10 constituencies in the state that go the polls today.
They include the restive Muzaffarnagar constituency, where at least 65 people were killed and 51,000 people – mostly Muslims – were displaced after Hindu-Muslim clashes in September.
Voters at a school in the Sarvapriya Vihar district began queuing as polling opened at 07:00.
Soon, several dozen people had queued up to cast their votes and the lines were getting longer by the minute.
Officials checked their names on the list and put the indelible ink on their forefingers.
The anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man’s) Party, which secured a spectacular result in local polls in Delhi last year, offers a challenge to the main parties.
Several smaller regional parties are also in the fray and if no single party wins a clear majority, they could play a crucial role in the formation of a government.
The marathon vote is being staggered over five weeks for security and logistical reasons.
Thousands of police and paramilitary security personnel have been deployed to ensure polling passes off peacefully.
On the first day of voting on April 7, polling took place in six constituencies in two states in the north-east – five in Assam and one in Tripura.
In the second phase on Wednesday, voting was held in six seats across four states.
The Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) has 543 elected seats and any party or a coalition needs a minimum of 272 lawmakers to form a government.
The main contest in the elections is between the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, the latest member of India’s influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, and the BJP, led by the charismatic and controversial Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi, who is ahead in all the pre-election opinion polls, is the leader of Gujarat state, which witnessed one of India’s worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
The BJP has promised to improve the economy and infrastructure and curb corruption if it wins in the general elections.
The party launched its manifesto hours after polling began for the first phase.
The Congress party has promised “inclusive growth” if it returns to power.
In its election manifesto, the party promised a raft of welfare schemes, including a right to healthcare for all and pensions for the elderly and disabled.
India polling days:
April 7 – 2 states, 6 constituencies
April 9 – 5 states, 7 constituencies
April 10 – 14 states, 91 constituencies
April 12 – 4 states, 7 constituencies
April 17 – 12 states, 121 constituencies
April 24 – 12 states, 117 constituencies
April 30 – 9 states, 89 constituencies
May 7 – 7 states, 64 constituencies
May 12 – 3 states, 41 constituencies
Counting of votes – May 16
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