Early reports from the state elections in India show that Mrs Gandhi's Congress Party has made sweeping gains in the sixteen states where voting has taken place.
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Marxist election posters in West Bengal, troops marching through West Bengal streets, Congress Party posters, people voting, election posters in New Delhi, people voting, voting in small village near New Delhi.
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Background: Early reports from the state elections in India show that Mrs Gandhi's Congress Party has made sweeping gains in the sixteen states where voting has taken place.
There was a heavy turnout - up to 70 per cent - in most places, and results indicate that the Congress Party will hold about 80 per cent of the seats at stake when counting is complete.
In one major state - West Bengal - few results have been published and final figures are not expected until Tuesday (14 March).
The state elections have been going on all week and have been marred by outbreaks of violence in which a number of people have been killed and injured.
When voters went to the polls on Saturday (11 March) large contingents of armed troops were patrolling the streets to deter troublemakers.
SYNOPSIS: Calcutta - the major city of West Bangal, and tension on Saturday during voting in the state election. West Bengal is one of sixteen Indian states which elected new state legislatures during the week. In West Bengal, Mrs Gandhi's Congress Party was expecting a tough fight with the Marxist party. Soon after the polls closed a Marxist candidate demanded that the vote be declared void....because of alleged intimidation by Congress workers. Troops patrolled the streets of Calcutta after a week marred by outbreaks of election violence. On election day itself the presence of troops failed to prevent further violence in which at least four people died and forty were injured.
Mrs Gandhi's ruling Congress Party has reason to be pleased with first returns from the state elections. All indications are that the party has made sweeping gains throughout India - possibly to the extent of winning eighty per cent of the seats at stake during the week-long election. However - in West Bengal - candidates must wait until Tuesday at least before final results are published. A politically unstable state - this was West Bengal's fourth state election in five years.
Voting was also going on in India's capital, Delhi, on Saturday. There, the Congress Party was confidently expected to increase its representation in the state legislature. Mrs Gandhi's personal popularity in the city is at a high level - and the Party based its campaign on its leader's ability. She has promised an all-out drive on property. The turnout of voters was described by election officials as very good - with about 70 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot.
In New Delhi, tension was lower -- but troops kept watch.
Voting enthusiasm wasn't confined to the major cities. In this small village outside Delhi, queues formed at many polling stations. As election results turned increasingly in favour of the Congress Party, it was predicted in Delhi that the Party will control nearly all the country's state legislatures.