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5 Gunned Down in India Shooting

February 24, 1998

PATNA, India (AP) _ A candidate for India’s parliament and four of his supporters were gunned down today in a state notorious for its lawlessness, raising India’s election-related death toll to 62.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after midnight on Devendranath Dubey, a candidate of the socialist Samajwadi Party.

All five victims were found dead in a jeep at Sangrampur village, 115 miles north of Bihar’s capital Patna, said police officer T.P. Sinha.

The nationwide parliamentary election has focused attention on the pressures on India’s democracy, and violence has been fiercest in northern Bihar state. Dubey himself was under investigation for murder.

The vote was called three years ahead of schedule after no party won a majority in the last balloting in 1996, and the rivalries that kept politicians from forming a stable government over the last two years are echoed in the current unrest.

In three days of balloting, voting has been completed for three-fourths of the 543 districts at stake. Voting was staggered over a total of six days to allow security forces time to move to different trouble spots. A fourth round will be held Saturday and vote counting will begin March 2, with only a few seats being contested on the last voting days March 7 and June 21.

A government is expected to be in power mid-March, in time to present a budget for the new financial year that begins April 1.

Elections in Dubey’s Motihari constituency were held Sunday, amid allegations of vote rigging by other candidates. The Election Commission is likely to rule later today on whether polling would have to be held again in Motihari.

Dubey, like dozens of other politicians in Bihar, was facing trial on murder charges. Four days ago, he got a court order restraining police from arresting him in another murder case.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today ordered the state assembly in neighboring Uttar Pradesh to meet Thursday for a vote on which political faction should govern.

Uttar Pradesh has been in turmoil since Saturday, when two parties in the state’s Hindu nationalist-led governing coalition walked out. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was dismissed and replaced by another faction, but several politicians who had been described as defectors later said they still supported the BJP.

The BJP is widely expected to race past others in the general elections, but fail to win the majority needed to govern alone. The United Front, which lost power in December, and the Congress could come together to keep the BJP out of power at the national level _ just as factions are trying to do in Uttar Pradesh.

The independent Election Commission has ordered new balloting this month in more than 2,000 polling stations _ voting was being held again in 313 polling stations in Bihar today _ after widespread killings and electoral fraud.

Of the 62 deaths directly linked to the campaign, 40 have been in Bihar.

Update hourly