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Millions of people cast votes

Millions of people in nine states across India, including the newest state of Telangana, voted Wednesday in the latest phase of the country's massive general election.

With 814 million eligible voters in India, the election is being held in phases over six weeks. Voters are choosing the 543 members of Parliament's lower house, with results expected on May 16.

The voters included Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial hopeful from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi, the chief minister of western Gujarat state, sparked a controversy by taking a photo of his inked finger while holding a small lotus flower, his party's symbol, after he cast his vote. Angry supporters of the ruling Congress party complained to election authorities that Modi had flouted election laws by canvassing for votes in violation of rules forbidding campaigning on election day.

The two national parties are locked in a tense battle for control of the next national government, with Congress facing a possible drubbing due to corruption scandals and a recent economic slowdown.

On Wednesday, the seventh phase of the election, nearly 140 million people were eligible to vote for 89 seats in Parliament, including all 26 for Gujarat. Elections were also being held in northern Punjab state and in the eastern states of Bihar and West Bengal.

Fourteen constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, were also voting, including Rae Bareli, where Congress party President Sonia Gandhi is running.

Security was tight in Uttar Pradesh, with tens of thousands of paramilitary troops and police deployed across the state. In elections last week, supporters of political parties took over 11 polling stations in Rampur constituency, said Umesh Sinha, the state's chief electoral officer. A new election was ordered and took place Tuesday.

Sinha said police were given shoot-on-sight orders to prevent any outbreak of violence or any attempt to disrupt Wednesday's voting.

Abhinav Sharma, 24, said he waited for two hours in sweltering weather at a polling station in Lucknow, but was reluctant to vote for any of the candidates.

"Most politicians are thieves. They only contest elections to get rich quick. But I didn't want to waste my vote, so I have cast my vote," said Sharma, an information technology professional in the Uttar Pradesh capital.


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