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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Delhi
Significant test for BJP and for Congress
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 17:42 GMT
Seventeen die in election violence

women in haryana
Women wait to vote in Haryana state

At least 17 people have been killed in violence during elections for new assemblies in four Indian states.

Police in the eastern state of Bihar, where turnout was nearly 65%, said 14 people were killed in separate incidents during the state's third and final round of voting.

old man in haryana state voting Casting the ballot
Three people were reported killed in the state of Manipur.

The highest death toll was at a polling booth in Bihar.

Bihar local police chief K K Jacob said: "Some men were trying to storm the booth to favour an independent candidate."

Police had to open fire and seven people were killed
K K Jacob, Bihar local police
"Police had to open fire and seven people were killed," he said.

Police in Bihar were reported to be under orders to shoot-to-kill in an effort to prevent a repetition of earlier violence.

Around 40 people lost their lives in the previous two rounds of voting - either in landmine blasts, guerrilla attacks or rival party clashes.

In another incident on Tuesday a female voter was killed and two were seriously injured when two rival groups clashed at a polling station.

A further two people were killed during gunfire in a market.

There were also reported to be some 400 arrests. High turnout

In Manipur, media reports said three security personnel were killed and eight injured in election-related violence.

Manipur police said separatist guerrillas had attacked several polling stations and taken ballot papers and boxes at gunpoint.No trouble was reported in the other two states holding elections, Haryana and Orissa.

hand in haryana A voter has ink applied to his hand
Officials in Orissa say turnout was nearly 60%, while the northern state of Haryana recorded the highest turnout of 70%.

Analysts were surprised by the high turnout in Haryana because it was thought that frequent elections there had caused voter fatigue.

The elections are being seen as the first major popularity test for the Hindu nationalist BJP party of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, since it was returned to power at the head of a multi-party coalition four months ago.

Some 96 million voters are eligible to take part.

The counting of votes begins 25 February.

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See also:
11 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Guide to Indian state elections
17 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Eight dead in Bihar poll violence
16 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Vajpayee promises tolerance
08 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Allies may hamper BJP

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