5:16 pm - Thursday May 22, 0560

Third phase polling in 91 constituencies begins

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The first major round of polling in 91 constituencies across the 11 States and three Union Territories began on Thursday in what is technically the third phase of the 16th Lok Sabha elections. While polling will be held in all of Kerala, Haryana and Delhi, this phase includes several Naxal-hit areas and the recently riot-torn Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts.

Suspected Maoist rebels blew up a jeep carrying paramilitary soldiers, killing two and wounding three others early on Thursday, hours before voting began in eastern Bihar, police said.

The multiphase voting across the country runs until May 12, with results for the 543-seat lower house of parliament announced May 16.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with strong momentum on promises of a surge in economic growth, appears to be leading the race to end the Congress party’s 10 years in power.

The threat of insurgent attacks is looming large on the Indian elections.

Voting in the first two phases was held in parts of the insurgency-wracked States in northeast of the country on Monday and Wednesday. But no violence was reported, with thousands of soldiers guarding voting stations.

On Wednesday, Maoist rebels killed three soldiers in a gun battle in central Chhattisgarh State a day before voting started.

In March, rebels killed 15 government soldiers and one civilian in their deadliest raid in Chhattisgarh in almost a year, ambushing dozens of troops and police guarding construction workers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the rebels India’s biggest internal security threat. They operate in 20 of India’s 28 states and have thousands of fighters, according to the Home Ministry.

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