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Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 12:33 UK
Final phase in Indian election



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Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit of Congress cast votes

Polling has now closed in the fourth stage of India's marathon five phase general election.

Millions of voters in 85 constituencies across seven states and in the federally-administered territory of Delhi cast their ballots on Thursday.

Neither the ruling Congress nor main opposition BJP are expected to win outright and other parties could play a key role after counting on 16 May.

The fourth phase voting has seen few major incidents of violence.

However, clashes in West Bengal have left two people dead and more than 15 injured.

BBC India editor Sanjeev Srivastava says that turnout in the first three phases was relatively low and so far it appears the fourth phase will be no exception to the trend.

Shutdown

Delhi had all seven seats up for grabs on Thursday. Congress won six of them last time.

Who to vote for? Delhi residents give their views

Among the early voters were President Pratibha Patil and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Mrs Gandhi's daughter, Priyanka, said after voting: "I hope [the Indian voter] is voting for a party and a prime minister who are serious about development and leading the country forwards."

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in the Delhi suburb of Gurgaon says many of the bankers and IT staff who work there have not registered to vote, but villagers queued up early at booths.

Initial reports from Srinagar, in Indian-administered Kashmir, were of deserted streets amid an election boycott call by separatists who argue that the vote legitimises Indian rule.

The call was generally being heeded.

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

There had been a two-day shutdown ahead of the vote in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.

However, in state elections in Jammu and Kashmir last year many voters defied a boycott call and cast ballots in unexpectedly large numbers.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did well in Rajasthan in 2004's general election, winning 21 of the 25 seats but analysts say that in a tight battle nationwide the switch of even a few seats could be crucial in the coalition talks that are sure to follow the election.

In Punjab, voting was suspended in Ferozepur constituency after a Congress supporter was shot dead. Police said it was over the ownership of a mobile phone.

Key candidates

Turnout was reported brisk in West Bengal. The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta said there was a huge security presence.

BBC INDIA ELECTION TRAIN
Soutik Biswas
Today's polling in Bengal is the toughest ever for the Communists who have ruled the state without a break for more than three decades

He said there had been three major incidents of violence between supporters of the leftists and the main state opposition Trinamul Congress.

A Trinamul Congress supporter was killed in Burdwan district and a Marxist supporter in Murshidabad district.

Voters in the states of Bihar, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also cast ballots on Thursday.

Among the key candidates facing the electorate were Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Railway Minister Laloo Yadav and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Voting is being held in several phases in some of the states.

The first phase of voting on 16 April was marred by Maoist violence in eastern and central India which killed at least 17 people.

But the second and third phases on 23 April and 30 April were largely peaceful.

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

The new parliament has to be constituted by 2 June.



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