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Last Updated:  Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 11:56 GMT
BJP upset in India state polls
Tribal women vote in Meghalaya
Tribal women vote in Meghalaya
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been defeated by its main rival in a key state in India.

The main opposition Congress Party has ousted the BJP in Himachal Pradesh in a result that is expected to boost its fortunes.

The BJP was trying to repeat its victory last December in Gujarat where it was returned to power with a large majority following communal riots earlier in the year.

Elections are also being held in three states in the north-east, with mixed results for Congress.

Out of 65 seats in Himachal Pradesh, Congress has won 40 with the BJP far behind at 16.

Since it was created in 1971 the state has seen Congress win five times and the BJP win three times and it is currently in office.


The BJP is a marginal player in the north-east unlike the Congress, which has a major presence there.

In the results declared thus far, the Congress is leading in Meghalaya but appears to have failed to oust the ruling Marxists from Tripura.

BJP supporters listen to senior leaders in Shimla
BJP leaders campaigned in Himachal Pradesh
In Nagaland the Congress is running neck-and-neck with a regional alliance.

Fears of violence led to a huge security presence during the vote in the north-east where more than 100,000 security personnel were deployed.

But polling was by and large peaceful.

While 70-80% of the electorate voted in Tripura, nearly 60% voted in Nagaland and between 60-65% in Meghalaya.

There were some stray incidents of violence.

In one incident on Wednesday, six people, including five border guards, were killed in a rebel attack in Tripura.

Earlier, a landmine seriously wounded four border guards in an attack police suspect was the work of the All Tripura Tiger Force.

In Nagaland, where a major separatist group has been holding peace talks with Delhi, violence broke out again.

Police said a member of the group, the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), was shot dead and two others arrested by the security forces.

The NSCN has been fighting for an independent homeland for more than 50 years, making it one of the longest-running insurgencies in the region.

But last month, two of its top leaders made a landmark visit to Delhi to hold negotiations with the Indian Government.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"For more than 50 years, a bloody battle has been raging"

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15 Dec 02 |  South Asia

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