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Tight security as Indians vote in final phase of mammoth election

KOLKATA: Indians lined up to vote amid unprecedented security in the eastern state of West Bengal on Sunday as the final phase of a massive, staggered election got underway to decide whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi returns for a second term.
Around 900 million Indians are eligible to vote in the seven-phase election, with vote counting to begin on Thursday.
The grueling, 39-day poll began in the wake of aerial clashes and escalated tensions with neighboring Pakistan, which Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used to focus its campaign on national security.
The main opposition Congress party and other regional blocs concentrated on the government’s economic mismanagement and inability to create jobs in their attempt to win voters.
However, the campaign turned increasingly personal and vitriolic in the final stages and clashes between rival groups marred polling in West Bengal.
India’s election commission suspended campaigning on Wednesday, a day early, after violence in the state’s capital, Kolkata.
Security was tight around voting stations in Kolkata and surrounding areas where people will cast their vote on Sunday. Around 57,000 policemen have been deployed and more than 400 quick response teams are on standby in case of any trouble, according to the chief electoral officer in Kolkata.
Amitava Ganguly, an employee of a private power utility, said there was polarization along communal lines in West Bengal.
“I have never seen such an election before,” Ganguly said.
The BJP is attempting to make inroads into West Bengal, which has the third highest number of parliamentary seats among Indian states, to offset likely losses elsewhere but has met stiff opposition from the regional Trinamool Congress party.
More than 100 million Indians are eligible to vote in the final phase, covering 59 seats in 8 states. India’s parliament has a total of 545 seats, out of which the BJP won 272 in the previous general election in 2014 to secure a single-party majority for the first time in around three decades.

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