17 hurt in Madhya Pradesh pre-poll clash

Associated Press

New Delhi, May 4:

Members of India’s two largest parties fought with swords, knives and wooden batons, leaving 17 injured today, a day before Indians in seven states cast their votes in parliamentary elections. The fighting between prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the main opposition Congress occurred in two villages in Madhya Pradesh, one of the states voting today for 83 of the 543 seats in Parliament. India’s five-phase elections conclude May 10 and ballot-counting begins three days later. Vajpayee’s coalition went into the elections bolstered by a booming economy and the prime minister’s popular peace overtures with rival Pakistan. An opinion poll today showed his coalition surging ahead of its rivals, but falling short of a majority in Parliament. The fighting in Chindwara left 13 Congress workers and two BJP workers hospitalised with serious injuries, reported Press Trust of India news agency.Exit polls after the first three rounds of voting in April showed an unexpected decline in the number of seats projected for Vajpayee’s multiparty coalition, the National Democratic Alliance. The latest Indian Express-New Delhi Television opinion poll said the NDA was likely to fare better tomorrow - the fourth phase of elections - and position itself for a win of 245-265 seats.

That would put it well ahead of opponents but still short of the majority mark of 272, meaning it would have to enlist more minor parties to support a tenable government. Congress and its allies were projected to win 180-200 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, with smaller groups and independents claiming the remaining seats.

Another opinion poll by the independent Star News television channel on Monday predicted 267-279 seats for the NDA and 169-181 seats for the Congress and its allies. Over 107 million people are eligible to vote tomorrow at 108,583 polling stations in Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu-Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh states.

Mishap kills Cong leader

Jaipur: Abrar Ahmed, the newly appointed president of the Congress party in Rajasthan, was killed along with two others when their car collided with a truck in Tonk district on Tuesday. The accident occurred near Devli town when Ahmed was going from Jaipur to Jhalawar for work related to the general election in the state, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

“Ahmed’s car collided with a truck some time between 4.15-4.30 am, killing him, his driver and servant on the spot,” Janardan Sharma, the Tonk superintendent of police, said. — HNS