India: Election ends


Up to 55 per cent of the 671.5 million eligible voters cast ballots in the polls, which began April 20 and closed in a massive finale today over 16 states and territories from isolated Himalayan villages to bustling New Delhi, Calcutta and Madras.

Exit polls showed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s coalition, which had called the election early to take advantage of soaring economic growth, hovering around the 272-seat mark needed for a majority.

The most optimistic assessment for the Hindu nationalist coalition came from Sahara Television which showed it securing up to 278 of 543 seats. The Aaj Tak channel showed only 248 MPs for the alliance.

Results of the election, India’s first run entirely on electronic machines, are to be announced on Thursday.