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Violence mars voting in key Indian state

Booths attacked as BJP battles to keep power in Madhya Pradesh

Violence mars voting in key Indian state

Armed guards watch as people go to vote in Bhopal, India reporters, Bhopal and Delhi

November 25, 2013

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Polling opened today in the crucial Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, which could set the trend for next summer's national elections, but voting was marred by violence in several districts.

 “Political activists indulged in firing, booth capturing and even destroyed electronic voting machines in … three districts [Gwalior, Bhind and Morena],” said the state’s chief electoral officer, Jaideep Govind.

He added that people in nine other locations in the state were boycotting the polls, accusing the incumbent right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of failing to initiate development projects during its term.

The BJP is seeking a third consecutive victory in the state, banking on its governance record, complemented by a host of welfare schemes.  

The BJP, led by the controversial Nahrendra Modi, who is also running for prime minister, says it is confident of victory. Its chief minister for the state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, claims support from the majority.

"Hundreds overwhelmingly adore his popular schemes for schoolgirls, young brides and expectant mothers,” said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a senior BJP poll manager. “You will find it difficult to spot a villager who is critical of our chief minister.”

The Congress party, which rules India’s federal government, has not held power in Madhya Pradesh for 10 years. It is hoping to secure a return through a list of populist election promises, including free power supplies and scholarships for schoolchildren.

This week’s polling is to elect a 230-member house. The victorious party will run the government for the next five years.

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