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Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 13:17 UK

India holds second election day

Manmohan Singh queues to vote in Guwahati
The prime minister cast his vote in Assam

Millions of voters in India have cast ballots in the second round of the country's month-long general election.

Polls were held in 140 constituencies in 12 states, in a vote which pits the Congress-led coalition and opposition BJP-led bloc against smaller parties.

Counting is due on 16 May and the result is too close to call.

The first phase of voting a week ago was marred by Maoist attacks in rural areas in eastern and central India which left at least 17 people dead.

Voters in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand went to the polls on Thursday. Polling for one seat in tiny Manipur in the north-east took place on Wednesday.

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Indians queue to vote at polling stations

The incumbent coalition, led by the Congress party, and parties led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are battling a host of smaller parties.

If no group wins a clear majority, the left-wing and regional parties could play a crucial role in deciding the next government.

Dozens of people queued up early in the morning to vote in Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh state, says the BBC's Geeta Pandey in the area.

INDIAN ELECTION AT A GLANCE
Eligible voters: 714 million
Polling centres: 828,804
Voting days: 16, 23, 30 April; 7, 13 May
Vote counting: 16 May
Leading candidates: Manmohan Singh (Congress), LK Advani (BJP), Mayawati

Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, is standing in Amethi.

At a polling station in Jagdishpur, our correspondent found factory employees queuing up to cast their ballots before going to work.

"We are all going to vote for the Congress party," they told the BBC.

Dozens of locals at another polling station in the area were angry they were unable to vote. Despite having polling cards, their names were not on the electoral roll, our correspondent says.

In the north-eastern states of Assam and Tripura, voters braved a steady drizzle to cast their ballots.

Sporadic violence was reported from Kokrajhar constitency in Assam state when armed men fired on the house of a leader of a prominent tribal party, says the BBC's Subir Bhaumik in the state capital, Guwahati.

No casualties were reported in the incident.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voted in Guwahati amid heavy security earlier on Thursday.

A landmine blast, blamed on Maoist rebels, was reported from eastern Jharkhand before polling began, the police said. There were no casualties.

'Symbolic gesture'

Voting is staggered over a month for security and logistical reasons. Some states are holding votes in several phases.

The new parliament has to be constituted by 2 June.

There are also a handful of state assembly elections - Orissa and Andhra Pradesh held theirs on 23 April.

Officials hoped that the level of violence for the second stage of the national vote would not be as high as last week, when Maoists launched several attacks, leading to one of the most turbulent beginnings to an Indian election in recent years.

A voter casting his ballot in Bihar, India on 23 April
People voted in many areas before going to work

On Wednesday Maoists briefly seized a train carrying several hundred passengers in eastern India before releasing them later.

In neighbouring Bihar, rebels shot and killed a truck driver in the town of Gaya, and torched several trucks.

The Maoists have urged people to boycott the polls, which end on 13 May.

Tens of thousands of security personnel were deployed for Thursday's vote.

On the eve of the poll, BJP candidate Varun Gandhi, on parole for allegedly making anti-Muslim speeches, filed his nomination papers to fight for a parliamentary seat in the state of Uttar Pradesh on 13 May.

Mr Gandhi is a grandson of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Although he is a descendant of the influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Mr Gandhi belongs to a side of the family that has disowned it.



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