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Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK

World: South Asia

Exit poll cheer for BJP

Exit polls point to a victory for the prime minister

An exit poll on Indian television has predicted victory for the country's ruling Hindu nationalist government, as India's lengthy general election draws close to the finish line.

The last of five days of polling - spread over five weekends - is scheduled for Sunday when voting will take place in 10 states involving 122 of a total 543 parliamentary seats.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
Heavy rains in one of those states, West Bengal, raised fears of a possible postponement of the vote. But the state's chief minister ruled out any change in the election schedule.

Meanwhile, repolling in several constituencies which voted at the weekend has taken place.

BJP hopeful of victory

In the latest exit poll broadcast on India's Star Television channel, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have been placed ahead of the rival Congress alliance.

[ image: Campaigning is on for the final round]
Campaigning is on for the final round
The poll predicted a comfortable majority for the BJP alliance, winning 249 out of 418 seats in which voting has taken place.

The Congress and its allies are forecast to win 134 seats.

A previous exit poll released after voting on Saturday suggested the BJP-led alliance would win 235 seats and the Congress alliance 145.

However, the BJP is expected to lose ground in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is a party stronghold. UP sends 85 MPs to the lower house of parliament.

Flood threat

Floods in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, which have affected nearly three million people and caused millions of dollars worth of damage has also raised fears of a possible delay in voting.

[ image: Heavy rain has devastated West Bengal]
Heavy rain has devastated West Bengal
All 42 parliamentary seats are due to vote on Sunday. But state Chief Minister Jyoti Basu ruled out any change to the voting schedule, and said he would ask the election commission to shift polling booths in areas still under water.

Meanwhile, reports say political parties are scrambling to provide flood relief ahead of the vote. Opposition parties have used the opportunity to blame West Bengal's ruling Communist Government.

"I'd rather not have politics out of the people's misery, but it brings out in a very naked manner the failure of the West Bengal Government," said Krishna Bose, an opposition candidate.


Meanwhile, fresh voting was carried out peacefully in several polling stations across three states where voting was held last Saturday.

The repolling was ordered by the election commission after complaints of voter fraud.

Saturday was the fourth of five days of voting. There was a low to moderate turnout and a few incidents of sporadic violence in the 79 parliamentary constituencies which went to the polls.

Counting of the votes is scheduled for 6 October and should be completed by the end of next week.

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