Indian general election begins (Second Lead)

New Delhi, April 16 (Inditop) Indians began voting Thursday morning to pick a new 545-seat Lok Sabha in the first phase of staggered elections widely expected to throw up a split verdict.

Polling centres opened at 7 a.m. in 124 constituencies across 15 states and two union territories amid tight security, Election Commission officials here said.

About 143 million of India’s 714 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the first of five rounds in 185,552 polling centres. A total of 1,715 candidates are in the fray.

Over 300,000 electronic voting machines are being used. Tens of thousands of election staff and security personnel have been deployed to conduct the electoral exercise — the world’s largest.

Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, Andaman and Nicobar Island and Lakshwadeep will see voting Thurday in all constituencies besides parts of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa and Jharkhand.

Simultaneous balloting began to elect state assemblies in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

The main parties in the fray are the Bharatiya Janata Party (102 seats), Congress (111), Bahujan Samaj Party (111), Communist Party of India-Marxist (23), Nationalist Congress Party (14) and Communist Party of India (15)

The millions of votes cast in the April-May elections will be counted May 16.