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India state elections guide

State assembly elections are being held in six Indian states over the next six weeks. Parliamentary elections are due in the first half of next year and the state polls are expected to give a sense of how the electorate may vote then.

Counting of votes will take place on 8 December, except in Indian-administered Kashmir where votes will be tallied on 28 December. BBC News takes a look at some of the issues in the elections.

CHHATTISGARH

Voting in this central state is being held in two phases, on 14 November and 20 November.

Chhattisgarh is one of at least 13 states in India where Maoist rebels are active and the key issues in the election here include security as well as rising prices.

The first round of voting took place in 39 of 90 constituencies and was marred by outbreaks of violence.

More than 900 candidates are standing for office with 15 million voters eligible to cast their ballots at nearly 20,000 polling stations.

The state is currently governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which faces a tough challenge from the Congress, which is in power nationally.

MADHYA PRADESH

This central state is the second largest of all of Indian states, accounting for more than 9% of the country's area. It has a population of 60 million.

The state has 31.3 million registered voters. They go to the polls on 27 November to choose 230 members of the state assembly.

Rising food prices are a major issue in a state which has some of India's poorest and hungriest people.

ELECTION TIMETABLE
14 and 20 November: Chattisgarh
27 November: Madhya Pradesh
17 November to 24 December: Jammu and Kashmir
29 November: Delhi
2 December: Mizoram
4 December: Rajasthan

The right-wing Hindu BJP has been in power for the past five years.

Congress is trying to wrest the state back and accuses the state government of "rampant corruption".

Previous elections in Madhya Pradesh have been fought between the Congress and BJP.

But this time, Madhya Pradesh is witnessing a multi-party contest.

The Bahujan Samaj Party of the low-caste Dalits (formerly Untouchables), led by the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state Mayawati, has joined the fray.

Former BJP leader Uma Bharti has also thrown her hat in the ring with her Bharatiya Janashakti party.

RAJASTHAN

The desert state in western India shares a long border with Pakistan and is India's largest state.

It covers an area almost the size of Germany and is known for its magnificent forts and palaces.

The state's capital, Jaipur, along with the cities of Udaipur and Jodhpur, attract a large number of domestic and international tourists every year.

Rajasthan's vote takes place on 4 December.

Elections in the state will primarily be fought between the governing BJP and the opposition Congress party.

In the last few months, the state's governing party's image has been dented after violent protests by the tribal Gujjar community over job and college quotas.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is also faced with opposition from rebels within her own party.

Rising food prices are an issue with voters, as elsewhere.

Security is also an issue as Jaipur was hit by a series of bomb explosions earlier this year in which dozens of people were killed.

DELHI

The Indian capital will elect its new government on 29 November - it has been run by the Congress party since 1998.

The election is being keenly contested by the BJP which hopes to regain the state.

Although the government of Delhi does not have all the administrative powers that other states have, it holds symbolic importance as the federal capital.

Poor infrastructure and spiralling food prices will be major issues with voters.

Delhi has also been hit by bomb explosions and security is a key issue with voters.

The capital has a population of 14 million and is home to a large migrant population with thousands of people arriving every day in search of work.

The city has 10.3 million registered voters who will be casting their ballots at nearly 11,000 polling centres.

JAMMU AND KASHMIR

Elections in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir will be held in seven phases from 17 November to 24 December. Results are due on 28 December.

The polls are being held against the backdrop of mass protests against Indian rule in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley over the summer.

There were also counter protests by Hindus in the state. Dozens of people were killed, most of them shot dead by security forces.

Kashmir has been in the grip of two decades of separatist militancy and earlier elections have been boycotted by large numbers of people.

This time, too, the separatists have called for a total boycott.

In the last elections held in 2002, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) took power in a coalition with Congress, ending two decades of government by the National Conference (NC) party.

The NC has promised to help the families of dead militants and pursue a policy of zero tolerance over human rights abuses.

The party has also promised to fill 40,000 vacancies in government departments.

The PDP has promised to work for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

The Congress party is fighting on the issues of development while the BJP is promising "an end to discrimination against the Hindu-majority Jammu region".

MIZORAM

The tiny hill state of Mizoram in India's troubled north-east will vote on 4 December.

Out of an estimated population of one million, 611,124 electors are eligible to exercise their franchise.

Sandwiched between Burma in the east and south, and Bangladesh in the west, Mizoram occupies an area of great strategic importance.

This election will be a triangular fight between the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), the state's main opposition Congress party and the newly-formed United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

The BJP also says it will contest the vote.

In the 2003 assembly elections, the governing MNF secured 21 of the total 40 seats, while the Congress won 12 and seven went to smaller parties. The MNF also won the 1998 elections.

The state has witnessed a devastating rat plague which has destroyed 80% of this year's rice and maize crop, which will be a major issue.

Chief Minister Zoramthanga, a former Mizo rebel, says his administration has handled the rat plague well and says he is confident of winning again.

Congress leader Lal Thanhawla says the MNF government has been "very unpopular".

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