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Indians vote on key election day

Millions of Indians have begun voting on the first big day of the general election pitting the ruling Congress party against the main opposition BJP.

Polling is being held in 91 seats in 14 states, including in the capital Delhi and the key states of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Orissa.

The nine-phase vote began on Monday and will conclude on May 12. Votes will be counted on May 16.

More than 814 million Indians are eligible to vote in the polls.

Two soldiers were killed and three others injured in a landmine explosion blamed on Maoist rebels in Jamui, a rebel stronghold in the eastern state of Bihar, police said.

The blast occurred before polling began, but voting has remained unaffected in the area.

Voters have turned out enthusiastically to cast their ballots in the politically crucial northern state of Uttar Pradesh which sends the maximum number of MPs to the parliament, says the BBC Hindi’s Nitin Srivastava in Muzaffarnagar.

Some 16 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in 10 constituencies in the state that go the polls today.

They include the restive Muzaffarnagar constituency, where at least 65 people were killed and 51,000 people – mostly Muslims – were displaced after Hindu-Muslim clashes in September.

Our correspondent says a number of displaced people living in camps in the area turned up to vote early on Thursday.

“We want to vote to ensure nothing unfortunate happens to us ever again,” Bano, a 42-year-old camp resident said.

The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi says voters at a school in the Sarvapriya Vihar district began queuing as polling opened at 07:00 (01:30 GMT).

Soon, several dozen people had queued up to cast their votes and the lines were getting longer by the minute.

Officials checked their names on the list and put the indelible ink on their forefingers.

The anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man’s) Party, which secured a spectacular result in local polls in Delhi last year, offers a challenge to the main parties.

Several smaller regional parties are also in the fray and if no single party wins a clear majority, they could play a crucial role in the formation of a government.

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