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Indian Legislative Polls Close - 2003-12-01

In India, the polls have closed in four state legislative elections that are being viewed as a barometer of voter sentiment ahead of national elections next year. India's main opposition Congress Party currently rules all four states. Their rival is the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In Delhi, analysts say, the BJP is highlighting what it says are Congress Party failures to help the city's poor.

"BJP is depending on the anti-incumbency factor, and raising issues of nothing concrete having been done during the last few years of Congress [party] rule for ameliorating the conditions for poor people," said Subhash Kashyap, an analyst in New Delhi with the Center for Policy Research.

Opinion polls suggest the BJP is likely to win a majority in Madhya Pradesh, unseating the Congress Party after 10 years in power. But in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Delhi, the Congress Party is expected to remain in power.

To many observers, state elections are seen as an important test of voter sentiment ahead of national polls next year. The BJP has headed India's ruling coalition government since 1998. But its popularity has fallen in recent years - winning only four out of 15 state elections in the five years since Mr. Vajpayee came to power.

Some 400,000 troops were deployed to ensure security at roughly 100,000 polling stations across the four states. Local media say scuffles broke out at one polling station, but no serious disturbances are being reported.