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Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 14:37 UK

India's marathon poll concludes

Voter in Ladakh
A voter in Ladakh shows his election ink mark

The fifth and final stage of voting in India's month-long marathon general elections has concluded.

Counting of votes is scheduled for Saturday and a new parliament has to be constituted by 2 June.

The main fight is between the ruling Congress party-led alliance and parties led by the BJP, which are pitted against a host of regional opposition.

An outright majority is unlikely for any of the parties and analysts say it will be a coalition with many players.

Calcutta violence

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says the final phase could well prove decisive as the swing state of Tamil Nadu, with nearly 40 parliamentary seats, has heavily influenced central politics in the past few elections.

Chris Morris
Chris Morris, BBC News in Chennai (Madras)

Voters were out early in the middle of Chennai, queuing up to cast their ballots. There was a flurry of excitement and a media scrum at Stella Maris College when the leader of the AIADMK, Jayalalitha, turned up to cast her vote.

Some people here think her party could sweep the polls in Tamil Nadu - which would make it one of the kingmakers of the next national government. Jayalalitha was looking and sounding confident.

She said she has had feelers from various parties but she'll wait until results are announced on Saturday before deciding on her next move. The other main party, the DMK, which swept the state last time, still insists that it will do well.

Voters in the states of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal cast their ballots on Wednesday, the final day of voting.

Polls were also held in the centrally-administered territories of Chandigarh and Pondicherry.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta said there were clashes in seven places in and around the city, with one person reported dead and 17 injured. There were similar clashes there in last week's voting phase.

All 39 constituencies in the southern state of Tamil Nadu voted on Wednesday.

Tamil Nadu - where voters tend to hand big victories to one or other of the state's two main parties - is expected to play a crucial role in the formation of the government in the coalition talks that are almost certain to follow the election.

The last five governments have been formed with the winners in Tamil Nadu.

Former state chief minister, J Jayalalitha, head of the AIADMK party and one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians, cast her vote in the state capital Chennai (Madras) and complained of election irregularities.

BBC INDIA ELECTION TRAIN
Soutik Biswas
I found a clear schism in the way the New India of the thriving cities and the Old India of the struggling villages are thinking.

She said some election machines were not working properly and in some places paramilitaries were nowhere to be seen.

In Jammu and Kashmir, some separatist groups had called for a boycott of the elections and a two-day strike in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.

A former separatist and head of a faction of the regional People's Conference party, Sajjad Lone, broke ranks to stand for election from Baramullah.

He said: "Today this is the start of the evolution of true Kashmiri nationalist leadership."

The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar said turnout in the region was low.

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

A large number of police and paramilitary troops were deployed in the capital, Srinagar, to prevent anti-election demonstrations.

Among the other candidates facing the electorate on Wednesday were Varun Gandhi and former cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin.

Mr Gandhi, who was accused of making a controversial anti-Muslim speech, is a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh. By 1300, Pilibhit was polling the highest turnout in the state at 36%.

Mr Azharuddin is contesting for Congress in Moradabad in the same state.

The first round of the general election on 16 April was marred by Maoist attacks in eastern and central India which killed at least 17 people. Later rounds were less violent.

About two million security personnel were deployed for the five-phase vote.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Associated Content India's Marathon Poll-What Will Be the Outcome? - 15 hrs ago
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation India's election enters final phase - 15 hrs ago
MSN.co.in Lok Sabha battle ends, exit poll puts UPA ahead - 20 hrs ago
Manorama Online LS battle ends, exit poll puts UPA ahead - 22 hrs ago
Central Chronicle General elections to conclude today - 40 hrs ago



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