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3 states vote, Cong leads

3 states vote, Cong leads

Voter turnout in elections seen as Congress' first test after May.

New Delhi: The Congress is set to consolidate its position in the country’s politics, going by projections made by projections for Assembly elections held in three states--seen as the first major popularity test since the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance is likely to win in Maharashtra, according to IBN-Lokmat Times projections.

According to these projections, the ruling Congress-NCP alliance will win 135 to 145 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. The Congress is predicted to get 75-85 seats and the NCP 55-65 seats.

The projections gave 105-115 seats to the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition with 45-55 seats to the BJP and 55-65 seats to the Shiv Sena.

Star News-Nielson, on the other hand, predicted the Congress will win 89 seats and NCP 48--thus the two together claiming 137 seats and falling short of the clear majority mark of 145.

According to the Star News-Nielson exit poll, the Shiv Sena and BJP will get only 62 and 51 seats respectively, making the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) a kingmaker with 12 seats.

In the 2004 assembly polls, the NCP and the Congress won 71 and 69 seats respectively. The Shiv Sena was on top in 62 constituencies while the BJP bagged 52 seats.

A victory of the Congress-NCP alliance over the Shiv Sena and BJP in Maharashtra, one of India's most industrialised states, will consolidate the Congress grip nationally after the Lok Sabha election when the party stunningly retained power.

For Haryana, where Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress is looking to return to power, the Star News-Nielson exit poll predicted the ruling party will win 57 of the 90 seats, while the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) will win 18.

The Congress is expected win in Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern state which has been in the news because of Chinese claims over its ownership.

The Election Commission said 66 percent of around 90 million electorate voted in the three states, with 60 percent turnout recorded in Maharashtra and 72 percent in Arunachal Pradesh. Haryana's voting was 66 percent.

Brisk polling was recorded in most places across the three states, the enthusiastic voters ranging from the poorest of the poor from urban slums to Bollywood's millionaire actors.

"I voted because it concerns our future, our children's future," Hindi movie star Aamir Khan told journalists after casting his vote early in the day in Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital.

But despite the prospects of a hung assembly in Maharashtra, the Congress ruled out joining hands with the vote-splitter MNS.

"We don't have any tie-up with Raj Thackeray at present, we didn't have any in the past and we won't have any in future as well," said Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh.

In Haryana, police said Jyoti Ram, the polling agent of an independent candidate, was killed in a clash in Hemu Majra village of Kaithal, 150 km from Chandigarh.

Reports of firing and clashes between Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) supporters came in from Nima Kheri and other villages in Mewat district. Four people were injured.

After voting Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda declared: "The Congress will sweep this elections." The Hooda government got the previous assembly dissolved seven months before its term was to end.

In Arunachal, Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and two more Congress members have been elected unopposed. A total of 154 candidates were in the fray, with the Congress fielding candidates for all 60 seats.

"It was heartening to see people come out in large numbers. This is an indication that we are winning hands down once again," a confident Khandu told IANS.

Election results will be declared on October 22.