Second phase of Indian general elections: Regional parties take the stage

About 155 million citizens go to the polls in 12 states.  The biggest challenges are among the large local parties in Tamil Nadu, Karnata and West Bengal.  Today is Holy Thursday and the bishops had asked not to hold the votes in conjunction with the Christian holiday.



 New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The second phase of the Indian general elections began this morning.  Approximately 155 million citizens are expected at the polls, out of a total of 900 million voters who will vote on seven different dates until May 19th.  Today thousands of candidates compete for 97 seats in 12 states, including some districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The second election date also coincides with the feast of Holy Thursday.  In recent weeks the Indian bishops had tried to postpone the vote so as not to overlap with the Christian celebration, which sees the faithful gathered in prayer even in the schools used as polling stations.  However, the Electoral Commission rejected the request of the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, there are reports of incidents of violence at polling stations: a teller was killed by Maoist rebels in Orissa.  The woman, Sanjukta Digal, survived the device detonated when her car passed, but was then shot down.

Today the main challenge is between the large regional parties in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal.  The first assigns 38 seats (out of a total of 39) of the Lok Sabha;  the competition is between Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Dmk) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Aiadmk), who have been competing for political life for decades.  In West Bengal the favorite is the Trinamool Congress of the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.  The other territories to vote are: Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Puducherry and Tripura.  The third phase will be held on April 23rd.