The first of five phases of voting has begun in India, which is holding the
world's largest parliament elections. More than two-and-half-million security
officers are on duty in the 15 states and two territories where balloting began
Thursday. Polling has been disrupted in several states, where attacks on polling
booths and security forces are blamed on communist insurgents.
15th time since independence, Indians are choosing their national lawmakers.
Security is especially heavy in several central
and eastern states, where Maoist insurgents, known as Naxalites, are attempting
to disrupt polling.
Six members of a para-military force, on their way
to guard polling booths in Jharkhand, died when their vehicle was hit by a land
Police are also keeping a close eye on thousands of other voting
centers, considered vulnerable to party activists taking control of polling
Here in Andhra Pradesh, the incumbent government at the state and
national level -- led by the Congress Party -- is pinning its hopes on voters
such as dental surgeon Minhaj Uddin Ahmed. He told VOA News the electorate is
making its decision based on the performance of the government and what it has
been providing for the public.
"All these things we need to take into
consideration before voting. Nowadays, people are well acquainted and very much
aware of the political environment here. People are very much happy with this
particular government right now in Andhra Pradesh," he said.
polling station nearby, housewife Kota Durga had a different opinion. She
complains prices of commodities have become too high and tells VOA she voted for
Durga also laments that women should feel safe and not feel it
is difficult to come out of the house.
Andhra Pradesh holds the second
phase of balloting in a week. Polls show a tight race in this key state and
analysts say the outcome here could determine the balance of power at the
Neither of the two main parties - Congress and the
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party - is expected to win enough of the 543 Lower
House seats to form a government by itself. That has leftist and regional
parties playing a more critical role on the election stage here in Andhra
Pradesh and other key states.
Nationally, more than 700-million voters
are eligible to cast ballots in the month-long election, which is staggered for
logistics and security reasons.