Millions of Indians are voting on Thursday across 11 states and three Union Territories in one of the biggest phases of the national election to pick a new government at the Centre.
Seats being contested on Thursday are in New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Odisha, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshwadeep, and Jammu and Kashmir. Polling is being held in 91 seats in 14 states.
More than 814 million Indians are eligible to vote in the polls.
The elections to choose members to the 543-seat Lok Sabha, or House of the People, will be spread over five weeks.
The main contest in the elections is between the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, the latest member of India\’s influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, and the BJP, led by the charismatic and controversial Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi.
Modi, who is ahead in all the pre-election opinion polls, is the leader of Gujarat state, which witnessed one of India\’s worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
Maoist rebels have urged people to boycott the elections in the region.
Security forces have stepped up safety measures to ensure a safe and fearless environment for voters. Residents of the capital on Thursday started gathering at the poll stations in the early hours under the watchful eye of thousands of police and election authorities.
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.
Results for the nine-phase voting are expected on May 16.
Polling started on April 7 in two small northeastern states and spread across four northeastern states amid tight security on Wednesday.