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India election generally peaceful

Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa among voters

May 7, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT)

From Correspondent Ashis Ray

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Millions of Indians streamed to polling stations Tuesday to cast votes in the last main phase of parliamentary elections. Mother Theresa even made her way to the voting booth.

Some voted for the first time; others were veteran constituents. In one case, a man who said he is 136 years old took part, despite the scorching heat.

voting

One woman, enthusiastic after voting, said, "I'm hoping that the new government will be better -- no corruption."

The election pits Prime Minister Narasimha Rao's Congress Party, which has ruled India for all but four years since independence in 1947, against the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the loose-knit National Front-Left Front alliance.

World's largest democracy

More than 200 million people were eligible to vote in 183 constituencies spread over 12 states in Tuesday's elections, the third phase of the process that started April 27. There are 543 parliamentary seats up for election. Results for most of the seats were expected by May 11.

By early afternoon, most of India's 590 million eligible voters will have had their chance to take part in the world's largest democratic process.



couple

"I'm hoping that the new government will be better -- no corruption."

-- Woman voter


Most exit polls indicate no party will win an overall majority. Rao's long-ruling Congress Party has received stiff challenges from rival groups.

exit poll

Although a clear picture of party strengths isn't expected until Saturday, past exit polls have been widely accurate.

"Exit polls in India have proven to be the most accurate way of estimating vote share for parties," said Yogendra Yadav, exit poll analyst.

Scattered violence

Despite the largely joyous atmosphere Tuesday, five people were killed in sporadic violence.

The Press Trust of India said a policeman and his driver were killed and four officers were injured by a land mine planted by suspected Maoist guerrillas in the eastern state of Bihar.

In addition, three people were reportedly shot dead in a clash between rival political groups elsewhere in Bihar.

Some 70 people have been killed during this year's election, far less than the 300 slain in 1991.

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