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India elections

Exit polls put Congress ahead

Article published on the 2009-05-13 Latest update 2009-05-13 15:51 TU

Voters queue in Kolkata(Photo: Reuters)

Voters queue in Kolkata
(Photo: Reuters)

The first two exit polls at the end of voting in India's general election put the Congress party ahead, but without enough seats to rule alone. Official results will be published on Saturday.

Both Congress and the BJP, its right-wing rival, are trying to win allies to form a coalition government, since neither expects to win the 272 seats needed to rule alone.

One survey predicted 191 seats for Congress and 180 for the BJP, while a second puts the figure at 195 to 189.

Exit polls have proved to be inaccurate in previous Indian elections, so all parties are anxiously awaiting Saturday's official announcement of the results.

On Wednesday a total of 108 million people were eligible to vote in seven states and two union territories, which are areas which have either been incorporated into India since independence or created from parts of existing states.

Security was tight, with tens of thousands of police and paramilitary troops deployed to guard 121,632 polling stations.

Kashmir, the Muslim-majority state with a strong movement against Delhi's rule, is once again a focus for security concerns. Grenade blasts were heard overnight in one constituency, Baramulla-Kupawara.

The streets of the main town were reported to be virtually deserted, apparently in response to a boycott call by separatists. But separatist leader, Sajad Lone, broke the boycott to stand as a candidate.

Lone's father Abdul Ghani Lone, who was one of the founders of the separatist movement, was assassinated in 2002, prompting Sajad to become seriously involved in politics. He claims that his father would have supported his participation in the election but his former allies have denounced him as a traitor.