Voting Begins In Key Indian State Of Uttar Pradesh

Published February 8, 2012 6:45AM (EST)

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Residents in India's largest state began voting Wednesday in a monthlong local election with repercussions for the whole nation.

A large re-election victory for Mayawati, the chief minister who goes by one name, could project her regional, caste-based party onto the national stage. A strong showing for India's ruling Congress Party could make it a kingmaker in the state and help it shore up its national coalition.

"The Congress could shed rebellious partners and could join hands with new political players," said Nominta Kumar, a political analyst at the Giri Institute of Development Studies.

A poor Congress showing could leave the national government crippled for the last two years of its term.

The state of Uttar Pradesh is so large, with 200 million people, that voting is spread over seven phases and will last until March 3. Results will be declared March 6.

"This is a lengthy and complicated process to provide a level playing ground to all the political parties," Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha said.

More than 900 video camera and 1,800 digital cameras will be used to monitor the polls and provide live webcasts, he said. More than 1.8 million government employees and 380,000 paramilitary soldiers were supervising the poll.

Much of the electioneering involved caste politics, with Mayawati's low-caste Bahujan Samaj Party facing off against the middle-caste Samajwadi Party. Congress was hoping for a strong third-place showing that would allow it to join the next state coalition and prod its new partner into joining the national government.

By Salon Staff

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