The first of 714 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the opening round of India's election today, reports the BBC. The month-long voting process pits the Congress party-led ruling coalition against the opposition Hindu nationalist BJP party and a coalition of Communist and regional third parties. Turnout has been steady, despite attacks from Maoist rebels, in a race the BBC says is too close to call.
Thwarting a massive security effort, rebels succeeded in killing voters and soldiers in several attacks across the country. In one district, the Maoists burned ballot boxes and blocked roads with trees to keep voters away. "We have taken every necessary measure to ensure peaceful, free, and fair elections," said a police chief in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. "Now you go out and vote."