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First round of Indian elections

THOUSANDS of troops fanned out across parts of India yesterday, ahead of today's elections to determine who will lead the country as the global economic slump threatens to undo two decades of growth.

Today's voting is the first of five phases that will span a month. Some 714 million people are eligible to cast ballots.

Opinion polls indicate that neither the ruling Congress party nor the main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, will win enough seats in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament to rule on its own.

Whoever gets the most votes will likely have to cobble together a coalition out of dozens of smaller parties, many focused on single, regional issues.

Thousands of police and paramilitary troops were deployed yesterday across the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which will vote for both national and state-level representatives.

"We have taken every necessary measure to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections. Now you go out and vote," state Director General of Police A.K. Mohanty said in the state capital, Hyderabad.

Results from the massive elections, which will use more than 1.3 million electronic voting machines in 828,804 polling stations, are expected May 16.


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