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April 19, 2019

Second round of Indian polls starts amid violence, protests

Top Story

April 19, 2019

NEW DELHI: Millions of voters across India cast ballots in the second round of the world's biggest election Thursday amid violence and protests that highlighted the intensity of animosity in the campaign.

With more than a month to go before the marathon ends, Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept up a punishing schedule of rallies as he seeks a second term, while opposition leader Rahul Gandhi maintained attacks on the right wing Hindu nationalist government, reported international media. Voting went ahead in 95 of India's 543 constituencies, most of it peacefully, but with noticeable black spots.

Security forces fired shotgun pellets and live bullets on protesters in Indian Held Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, injuring three people, a police officer said. At some polling stations in tense IHK, security forces outnumbered voters with tens of thousands of troops, paramilitaries and police deployed to the region for the vote. Authorities closed down mobile internet services and set up barricades to block roads to thwart any attack.

Groups of youths still hurled stones at them. Outside one polling station, a 55-year-old man said he would not vote. "Our leaders have called for the boycott of all Indian elections," he said. Police in West Bengal fired tear gas and baton-charged groups in Darjeeling district protesting because they said they had been prevented from voting. A woman poll worker was killed by suspected Maoist rebels in the eastern state of Odisha hours before polling opened. And in central Chhattisgarh state, security forces raided a Maoist jungle camp, killing two insurgents allegedly involved in an attack on an election convoy before the first round of voting that left five dead, police said.

More than 157 million of India's 900 million electorate were eligible to vote on the second of the seven rounds of voting. The last is on May 19 and final results will be released on May 23. Polls in the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu could prove decisive in choosing the next prime minister and long lines formed outside polling stations. But voting was cancelled in one Tamil Nadu constituency after about $1.5 million in cash – believed to be intended as bribes – was seized by police.

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