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World News

April 7, 2014

India starts voting in world's largest election

(Continued)

GAUHATI, India —

Assam's highest elected official, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress Party, said he was confident of winning re-election.

"There is no Narendra Modi magic in Assam. The Congress has been winning every form of elections since 2001 in Assam, and we are going to repeat the performance this time," Gogoi said.

In the last general elections in 2009, Congress won seven of Assam's 14 parliamentary seats to the BJP's four, while regional parties won the rest.

Gogoi's 32-year-old son, running for office for his first time, said he was encouraged by the large number of politically engaged youths. With more than 65 percent of India's 1.2 billion people being younger than 35, young voters are expected to have a strong impact on the election.

"I am extremely happy with the enthusiasm shown by the large number of young voters who have turned out to vote this time," Gaurav Gogoi said.

Several groups of separatist ethnic or Maoist rebels have threatened violence during the vote.

Authorities said there were no violent incidents at the polls, thanks to the deployment of 25,000 police and paramilitary troops to guard polling stations. Helicopters were put on standby, and borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan were sealed.

"The elections passed peacefully," said A.P. Raut, Assam's police assistant director-general.

Assam has experienced several separatist insurrections since 1979, when the rebel United Liberation Front of Asom, or ULFA, was formed. Though one ULFA faction is in peace talks with the central government, another is still engaged in roadside bombings and ambushes on government soldiers.

Other ethnic rebel groups like the National Democratic Front of Bodoland are also cause for worry, with one faction threatening northern Assam politicians.

The northeast could also be affected by rebels inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, who have called for an election boycott and threatened to disrupt the vote. The Maoist rebels are active in 20 of India's 28 states.

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