Protests disrupt voting in Indian national elections
110 million people eligible to vote in 11 of India’s 28 states, in third phase of poll
A police officer checks people’s voting slips as they wait in line to cast their votes at a polling station during the third phase of voting for national elections in New Delhi today. Photograph: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
Indians voted in the crucial third phase of national elections today, with millions going to the polls in the heartland states essential to the main opposition Hindu nationalist party’s bid to end the 10-year rule of Congress party.
Suspected Maoist rebels, who have urged a boycott, briefly disrupted voting in their strongholds in eastern Bihar state and neighbouring Chhattisgarh, carrying out acts of violence despite thousands of security forces deployed in the area.
Nearly 110 million people were eligible to vote in the third phase of the elections in 92 constituencies in 11 of India’s 28 states and three federally administered union territories. The multi-phase voting across the country runs until May 12, with results for the 543-seat lower house of Parliament announced on May 16.
Hours before the voting began, Maoist insurgents used a land mine to blow up a jeep carrying paramilitary soldiers, killing two and wounding three others and causing a suspension in voting in some parts of eastern Bihar state, police said.
Voting was suspended at 20 nearby polling stations but started as scheduled in other parts of Bihar state.
The insurgents struck again hours later and briefly disrupted voting in neighbouring Chhattisgarh state by firing at security forces guarding polling stations in Bastar district. There were no casualties and the rebels fled.
The main Hindu opposition, with strong momentum on promises of a surge in economic growth, appears to be leading the race to end the Congress party’s 10 years in power.
The Aam Admi Party, or Common Man’s Party, scored a stunning upset in the New Delhi election, launching Mr Kejriwal to the national stage. He has led protests and hunger strikes to highlight his fight against government corruption over the past two years. The party is contesting nearly 400 parliamentary seats.
The threat of insurgent attacks is always a shadow over Indian elections, although voting in the northeast on Monday and Wednesday was mainly peaceful.