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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Snapshots - India's final voting day

Monday saw the final, and biggest, round of voting in India's marathon general election. Click on the links below for the news and colour from BBC correspondents across the length and breadth of the country.


DelhiPunjabKashmirMadyha PradeshWest BengalTamil NaduKeralaHimachal PradeshUttar PradeshHaryanaSikkimUttaranchal
Click on the map or the links below to read the reports.

CRISPIN THOROLD IN DELHI

Polling stations in the capital stocked bottles of iced water and rehydration tablets for voters affected by the high temperatures registered in Delhi today.

In several of the city's polling stations, only 40% of the electorate had cast their ballots by 1600 - an hour before the polls closed.

Checking a man's papers in Delhi
Security officials check a voter's identity in the capital
Among the first voters to cast his ballot this morning was President Abdul Kalam, at a special polling station at the presidential palace.

"I feel beautiful to exercise my right to vote," he said soon after.

The capital of India has seven parliamentary seats including the largest and tiniest constituencies in the country.

Affluent Delhi with its traders, white-collar workers, bureaucrats and expatriates is often described as the most politically-aware city in the country.

Prime Minister Vajpayee's BJP is a formidable force in Delhi and won all the parliamentary seats in 1999. But it has been facing a very strong challenge from the Congress which recently won re-election in state elections.

There are indications that the vote was split along social lines - wealthier areas are believed to have supported the BJP, while poorer sectors voted for the Congress Party.

MONICA CHADHA IN PATIALA, PUNJAB

"We don't see our leaders in a very long time, they never seem to come around. But we vote anyway because we hope it will change," Surinder Sharma, a shopkeeper in Chuni village, told me.

Polling station in Patiala district, Punjab

In the villages I visited in Ropar constituency, there were long lines of voters from early in the morning.

Entire families turned out to vote including colourful groups of women.

By 1500, turnout in the state was estimated at 40%.

India's breadbasket, this border state is what remains of undivided Punjab, the bulk of which is now in neighbouring Pakistan.

Sikhs are in a majority here but there is a major Hindu community as well.

The land of five rivers, Punjab's richly fertile soil means that the bulk of its population is engaged in farming although there is a thriving small and medium industry in pharmaceuticals, textiles, machine tools and sporting goods.

The Sikh Akali Dal party is the BJP's local partner and will look to unseat Congress which won the bulk of the state's 13 seats in 1999. High profile candidates include Bollywood star Vinod Khanna and former cricketer, Navjot Singh Sidhu, both fielded by the BJP.

BINOO JOSHI IN INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR

Polling was generally peaceful, despite violence overnight in which 10 people were injured in grenade attacks in Udhampur and Doda.

Women voting in Doda, Kashmir
Many voters defied a separatist boycott

There was a clear distinction between polling in Hindu-dominated areas, where turnout appeared good, and in Muslim and militant-affected areas where fewer people came out to vote.

Some voters defied a boycott call from the separatists. In the village of Doda, large groups of women wearing black veils outnumbered male voters.

Maulvi Rashid Ahmed, in the village of Chandrakote, said he was not scared of voting: "I am only scared of God. It is my duty to vote."

Everywhere there has been heavy security - all roads being patrolled and the main markets shut.

Two of the six parliamentary seats of the Indian part of this disputed state vote in this final round, including Buddhist-dominated Ladakh, high-up in the Himalayas.

Ladakh constituency also includes Kargil, where Indian and Pakistani troops fought each other in 1999.

Ladakh has the highest polling station in India at Fastan at an altitude of 17,000 feet (5,181 metres).

Voting also took place in Udhampur, further south, in the Hindu-dominated part of the state.

JYOTSNA SINGH IN BHOPAL, MADHYA PRADESH

In many areas of this city, what are seen as exorbitant electricity bills were the main talking point among voters.

"In this heat we cannot run the fans because we are scared of high bills," was a typical comment.

In the main Muslim areas of Bhopal there was little enthusiasm for the vote.

Yaqub, a voter, and his wife in Bhopal

Yaqub Khan and his wife, Sabira, had trudged half a kilometre to exercise their democratic right.

Yaqub, 62, and his family are among hundreds of thousands of people in Bhopal who still bear the scars of one of the world's worst industrial disasters, when poisonous gas leaked from a gas plant 20 years ago.

"I have always voted religiously - even though it helps the politicians more," says Yaqub, whose damaged lungs have left him barely able to walk.

"We do hope that maybe some day our MP will wake up to our needs and problems," Sabira says.

Officials said about 15% had voted by 1100 local time. In one polling station in a Muslim-dominated area of the state capital, only 10 voters had cast ballots out of over 1,000 who are registered.

The BJP is very well placed here after it swept recent state polls under the leadership of a charismatic Hindu nun, Uma Bharati.

The BJP is locked in a straight contest with the Congress. Among the many candidates is Jyotiraditya Scindia, a descendent of the former rulers of the princely state of Gwalior, one of India's most powerful royal families.

SUBIR BHAUMIK IN CALCUTTA, WEST BENGAL

During the day, sporadic clashes were reported in several parts of the state - at least three people were killed and nearly 50 others injured.

Preliminary reports suggest the turnout in West Bengal was between 62 and 65%, that is about 10% lower than in previous elections.

Analysts say the lower turnout could result in the state's ruling Left Front losing a few parliamentary seats.

86-year-old woman comes out of polling booth in Calcutta

West Bengal is one of two Indian states ruled by Communists - they have been a force here for three decades.

Wearing red handkerchiefs around their neck Communist activists went from house to house asking people to come out and vote.

Opposition Trinamool Congress workers were also been much in evidence on the streets, shouting the slogan: 'Vote early, vote for the flower', referring to their party symbol.

The BJP has a negligible presence in this eastern state and is relying on a good showing by its alliance partner, the Trinamool Congress.

The Communists are likely to continue to do well especially in the countryside where they get most of their support.

One of the key contests is in Calcutta where Trinamool chief and cabinet minister Mamata Banerjee is being challenged by a former movie star and social worker, Nafisa Ali.

SOUTIK BISWAS IN MADRAS, TAMIL NADU

An overcast morning gave way to sweltering heat, with turnout picking up and decent queues forming outside most polling stations. Women were well represented.

At one polling station in Madras South, 543 of the 3390 votes had been cast within the first couple of hours, officials said.

"Polling is going very fast," an election agent for the DMK party said.

Voters in Madras

But some absent-minded voters had to go home to pick up ID cards they had forgotten.

This southern state could well hold the key to the next government, with 39 parliamentary seats.

One of India's most prosperous states, it has rich farmlands, forests and is a major centre for the automobile industry.

Tamil Nadu has a strong regional identity which has translated into its politics - two regional parties, the DMK and the AIADMK led by the mercurial Jayalalitha, are the main political forces allied to the Congress and the BJP respectively.

The BJP-AIADMK combine is facing a stiff challenge from the opposition and needs a strong showing to be returned to power.

SRIDEVI MOHAN IN TRIVANDRUM, KERALA

The capital Trivandrum was unusually quiet today - it is one of them most unenthusiastic voting days that I have seen.

Turnout in Kerala in general appears low when compared to previous elections. By 1500 around 50% of voters had been to the polling stations, in a state which has in the past seen turnouts of more than 70%.

Voting got off to a slow start, with people trickling in to polling stations.

Communist and Congress party workers were going from house to house urging people to come out and vote.

Lush green Kerala with its palm trees, beaches and backwaters is India's most literate state. It has 20 parliamentary seats and was the first Indian state to vote for the communists.

Kerala politics is a two-way contest between the communists and the Congress, although the BJP is hoping to win its first ever seat in Kerala in these elections.

BALDEV CHAUHAN IN SHIMLA, HIMACHAL PRADESH

By 1500, about half the electorate had cast their ballot in the northern hill state of Himachal Pradesh. But polling was much higher in the mountainous tribal Lahaul & Spiti district, a region bordering Tibet.

"Voting takes place early in the twin valleys of Lahaul & Spiti because people like to return to their homes soon, as it gets very cold towards evening," one official from Keylong, 450 km north of the provincial capital, explained on the phone.

But in the state capital, Shimla, things were slow to start. I visited a couple of polling stations when they opened and saw hardly any early voters.

This tiny mountain state has only four parliamentary seats with the BJP and the Congress locked in a straight contest.

Dharamsala, the exiled home of the Dalai Lama, is in Himachal Pradesh, a state which is also known for its alpine scenery and orchard farms. The BJP will find it hard to match its 1999 performance when it won all four seats.

ANURADHA PREETAM IN BULANDSHAHAR, UTTAR PRADESH

From early morning, there was a festive mood among voters queuing outside polling stations here in western Uttar Pradesh.

I saw many Muslim voters, including many women veiled in black. Most of them said they were voting against the BJP.

But one voter told me he would vote for the BJP. "One should vote for the party that can form the next government," he said.

Heavy security has been evident in this key constituency, and police are stopping cars at checkpoints that have sprung up all over.

Voting is taking place in 18 out of the state's 80 constituencies - many with a strong Muslim presence - in a four-way contest between the BJP, the Congress and two regional parties.

The former chief minister and BJP candidate, Kalyan Singh, is facing a tough fight against Badrul Islam, a Muslim candidate fielded by two regional parties.

HARYANA

Supporters of two rival parties clashed in Haryana's Bhiwani constituency, leaving two people injured.

Bhiwani is a high-profile constituency which is witnessing a unique three-way contest. Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala's son is pitted against the sons of his two bitter rivals and former chief ministers, Bhajan Lal of the Congress and Bansi Lal of the regional Haryana Vikas Party.

Voting in the state has been generally peaceful, with 49% turning out by 1500.

Once part of Punjab, Haryana is one of India's smaller states and was created in 1966 under a move to reorganise Indian states along linguistic lines.

Its proximity to Delhi has helped the state turn into one of the country's most prosperous. Affluent suburbs adjoining the national capital house the booming information technology and automobile industries.

The state also has rich farmlands mainly growing sugarcane and cotton. The state is dominated by the Hindu jat community who are also very influential politically. The BJP and its allies won all 10 parliamentary seats last time but is facing a stiff challenge from the Congress this year.

SIKKIM

The tiny Himalayan state of Sikkim borders Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan and has the third highest mountain peak in the world, the Kanchenjunga.

It was an independent kingdom until 1975 when it became part of India. Predominantly Buddhist, it houses one of the most influential Tibetan Buddhist monasteries at Rumtek.

Sikkim has only one parliamentary seat, currently held by a local party and is holding elections to its state assembly.

RAM DUTT TRIPATHI IN CHAKRATA REGION, UTTARANCHAL

Polling began smoothly in this remote, mountainous tribal region in the western Himalayas.

Some of the polling stations are situated at a height of 8,500 feet and officials had to trek for three days to reach them.

The main contest here is between the sitting BJP MP and the former ruler of the state, Raja Manvendra Shah, and the Congress Party's Vijaya Bahuguna.

Uttaranchal was created in 2000 when the northern part of Uttar Pradesh was hived off. The source of India's holiest river, the Ganges, lies in a glacier in Uttaranchal.

Some of Hinduism's most holy sites can be found in the state including the spiritual towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh.

Tiny Uttaranchal has only five parliamentary seats. The BJP currently holds four of them but Congress runs the state government.

OTHER TERRITORIES

The islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep are also voting along with Chandigarh and the former French colony of Pondicherry for a total of four seats.


India votes 2004: Full in-depth coverage here

Cabinet members Old faces return
Gandhi family loyalists back in from the cold, but no fresh blood in cabinet.


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