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India Begins World's Largest Election

India has begun voting in what is being billed as the world's largest democratic exercise.

Voters in the remote northeastern states of Assam and Tripura were among the first to cast ballots in the five-week national election. More than 814 million registered voters are choosing members to India's lower house of parliament, the 543-seat Lok Sabha or House of the People.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies are forecast to win the biggest block of seats, but the latest polls indicate they may fall short of a majority. Any party or coalition needs at least 272 seats to form a government.

India's ruling Congress Party has been criticized for high inflation, slowing economic growth and several high profile corruption scandals during its decade in power.

Results from the nearly one million polling stations are expected on May 16.



The Congress Party's campaign is led by Rahul Gandhi, son of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

On Monday, BJP prime minister candidate Narendra Modi unveiled his party's manifesto, focusing on good governance and development. The party is pledging modern infrastructure such has high speed trails and increased manufacturing to create more jobs. Modi said he will leave "no stone unturned to carry out the responsibilities the BJP has thrust on me."

Modi has been accused of failing to stop deadly Hindu-Muslim riots that wracked his home state of Gujarat in 2002. At least 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims. He was cleared of wrong-doing by the Supreme Court and his supporters credit Modi with ushering in growth in Gujarat as chief minister.

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