Voting Underway in India's National Election

The first of five phases of voting has begun in India, which is holding the world's largest parliament elections. More than two-and-half-million security officers are on duty in the 15 states and two territories where balloting began Thursday. Polling has been disrupted in several states, where attacks on polling booths and security forces are blamed on communist insurgents.

For the 15th time since independence, Indians are choosing their national lawmakers.

Security is especially heavy in several central and eastern states, where Maoist insurgents, known as Naxalites, are attempting to disrupt polling.

Six members of a para-military force, on their way to guard polling booths in Jharkhand, died when their vehicle was hit by a land mine.

Police are also keeping a close eye on thousands of other voting centers, considered vulnerable to party activists taking control of polling booths.

Here in Andhra Pradesh, the incumbent government at the state and national level -- led by the Congress Party -- is pinning its hopes on voters such as dental surgeon Minhaj Uddin Ahmed. He told VOA News the electorate is making its decision based on the performance of the government and what it has been providing for the public.

"All these things we need to take into consideration before voting. Nowadays, people are well acquainted and very much aware of the political environment here. People are very much happy with this particular government right now in Andhra Pradesh," he said.

At another polling station nearby, housewife Kota Durga had a different opinion. She complains prices of commodities have become too high and tells VOA she voted for change.

Durga also laments that women should feel safe and not feel it is difficult to come out of the house.

Andhra Pradesh holds the second phase of balloting in a week. Polls show a tight race in this key state and analysts say the outcome here could determine the balance of power at the national level.

Neither of the two main parties - Congress and the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party - is expected to win enough of the 543 Lower House seats to form a government by itself. That has leftist and regional parties playing a more critical role on the election stage here in Andhra Pradesh and other key states.

Nationally, more than 700-million voters are eligible to cast ballots in the month-long election, which is staggered for logistics and security reasons.