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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK

World: South Asia

India's northeast prepares to vote

Voting has been enthusiastic but the turnout is lower than normal

Security has been tightened across nine states due to vote in the penultimate phase of India's month-long general elections.

The BBC's Satish Jacob: "The Congress Party are trying to win back their traditional supporters"
Voting will take place in India's troubled northeastern states, which have a history of insurgence.

Polling is also scheduled for the north Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which make up a quarter of the total number of parliamentary seats.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
Some 200,000 police and paramilitary forces have been deployed across the northeastern states to prevent an outbreak of violence during voting.

The region - which is rich in resources - is home to many ethnic tribes and several insurgent groups are active in the area.

[ image: Violence affected the third phase of voting]
Violence affected the third phase of voting
"Security forces are on maximum alert throughout the northeast, as militants might target political party leaders and voters during the polls," an army commander told French news agency AFP.

Last week, a candidate of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was kidnapped in Assam by separatist rebels.

Several of the groups have called for a poll boycott. But government officials played down the threats and said they expect a good turnout.

Christian missionary groups have a strong presence in parts of northeast India. In the tiny state of Mizoram, the Church called on voters to "elect candidates who are clean and possess good moral character."

Violence marred the third day of voting in India, with close to 40 people killed, many in Bihar.

Charges traded

Campaigning has now ended in those areas where the next round of voting is to take place, with the two main national parties attacking each other in campaign speeches.

[ image: Priyanka Gandhi: Alleges electoral fraud]
Priyanka Gandhi: Alleges electoral fraud
India's Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, accused his main rival of fostering political instability.

"The talk of offering a stable government at the centre is nothing but a fraud being played on both the people and [the Congress party's] supporting allies," he said at a rally.

And the daughter of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi filed an official complaint, charging the BJP with election malpractice.

The Press Trust of India said Priyanka Gandhi accused the BJP of plotting to rig votes and capture polling stations in Amethi, where her mother is running for parliament.

Exit polls conducted after the first three phases of the elections showed a clear lead for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies, with the Congress party coming in second.

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