Local politician killed as Indian general election polling begins

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Local politician killed as Indian general election polling begins

Voting is taking place in 18 states and two union territories in the first of a seven-phase election being staged over six weeks.


India elections (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
India elections (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

At least four people have been killed on the first day of polling in India’s general elections, which are seen as a referendum on prime minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party.

Police said two workers of Andhra Pradesh state’s ruling Telugu Desam party were killed in a confrontation with supporters of a regional opposition party, YSR Congress.

One election official was killed in an alleged attack by suspected insurgents in India’s remote north east, the Election Commission said.

Violent clashes were also reported elsewhere in the state, where voters are casting ballots for 25 members of India’s lower house of parliament and 175 state assembly seats.

Another person was killed by government forces during a protest in disputed Kashmir.

Outside of Andhra Pradesh, voting was taking place in 17 other Indian states and two union territories in the first of a seven-phase election staged over six weeks.

Turnout was estimated at more than 60% of voters.

At least 15 electronic voting machines were damaged by some angry voters during the voting in several states, Chandra Bhushan, an election commission official, told reporters.

With 900 million of India’s 1.3 billion people registered to vote, it is the world’s largest democratic exercise. Over the course of the election, 543 parliamentary seats will be decided from about a million polling stations across India.

With Mr Modi as leader, the Bharatiya Janata Party won a clear majority in 2014 elections.

Under the leadership of political dynasty scion Rahul Gandhi, India’s National Congress party, which ruled the country for about half a century since the 1947 independence, has struggled to coalesce India’s many opposition parties into a coherent effort that could go head-to-head with the BJP.

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Surveys show the ruling party projected to come out first again in this year’s polls, but with a smaller mandate.

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A polling station in Uttar Pradesh (Altaf Qadri/AP)

Supporters of Mr Modi say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing in the world. India’s economy has continued to grow, vying with the UK to be the fifth-largest in the world.

But India’s growth has not meant a better employment outlook in the country, where an estimated one million people join the labour pool each month.

According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, employment contracted in the year following a 2016 demonetisation programme to remove most of India’s banknotes from circulation, by 3.5 million jobs.

Mr Modi’s critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions and violence against Muslims and other minorities in constitutionally secular India.

Since a suicide bombing in disputed Kashmir killed 40 Indian paramilitary forces in February, the BJP campaign has played up the threat of Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Voting also began for two parliamentary seats in Kashmir, a Himalayan region split between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety, amid tight security.

Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.

Press Association

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