04/21/2004, 00.00
India - 2004 Elections
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After first day of elections exit polls indicate Vajpayee in the lead

Violence leads to at least 30 deaths and dozens wounded

Bombay (AsiaNews) – Prime Minister Vajpayee's government coalition seems to be in the lead after the first round of elections came to close yesterday, involving votes cast in 13 states and 3 territories for Lower House (Lok Sabha) seats, according to exit polls conducted by a daily newspaper and TV network.

Polls taken by The Indian Express and New Delhi Television say Vajpayee's coalition will win 75 of the 140 seats at stake while 53 other seats are predicted to go the Congress Coalition. Despite the sweltering heat (40°C), voter turn out was high (55-60%) – but slightly lower than in the previous elections with 170 million voters showing up at polls.

Yesterday was also marked by violent incidents. The toll of victims after the first day of elections stood at 30 persons killed and dozens injured in the Jammu-Kashmir, Bihar and Manipur regions. All cases of violence were linked to the actions extremist groups fighting for a boycott of elections.   

Two people died in Kashmir, in the district of Baramulla (one of them was employed at the Ong Coalition of Civil Societies); 4 ended up being injured after a land mine exploded. A reserve police officer was killed by militants who had opened fire at a polling station in Pazalpora-Rafiabad.  

Meanwhile in Jharkhand left-wing radicals decided to boycott elections and threatened those who said they would go and vote. In the same region a magistrate and civilian died in two separate violent episodes.

Three others died in the Maoist stronghold of Bihar where various candidates have been accused of homicide. Two Rashtriya Janata Party supporters were killed 11 others wounded after clashes with police erupted in the region, followed by a series of explosions and attempts to tamper with election ballots.  (NC)

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