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Communists warn of manipulation in Indian elections

LEFT Front leaders lodged a complaint with India’s Election Commission today, alleging that voters have been threatened with violence to deter them from backing opposition candidates.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury warned on Sunday: “If manipulation of the election continues the way it did in the first phase, the Election Commission may lose credibility.”

Voting is currently under way to elect a new national government, with right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking Indians to re-elect his Bharatiya Janata Party for another five-year term.

The mammoth process involves seven phases of voting at one million polling stations, starting last Thursday and ending on May 19.

Around 900 million people are eligible to participate and there are 543 seats up for grabs in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament.

Opposition groups are united in striving to defeat Mr Modi’s BJP, fearing the rise of violent Hindu chauvinism and neoliberal policies along with a belligerent stance towards neighbouring Pakistan as tensions escalate between the two nuclear-armed powers.

Mr Yechury spoke of large-scale manipulation in the first phase of elections in many Indian states, including West Bengal.

“In Tripura, manipulation took place at multiple levels,” he said. “Firstly, there was an attempt to ensure that no-one visited the polling centres. Then, those who visited were threatened and sent back.”

Those who insisted on casting their vote were beaten up if identified as belonging to an opposition party, the CPI-M leader alleged.

Mr Yechury called on election authorities to investigate, alleging that, “two hours before the polling ended, the booths were shut down,” adding that irregularities were taking place inside the polling stations.

He also warned that the new electronic voting system was failing, despite the government “talking so much about modern technology” before its introduction.

The communist leader is on the campaign trail and due to arrive in Kerala on Wednesday.

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