India elections: BJP leader killed in India-administered Kashmir

Suspected rebels kill Gul Mohammad Mir, head of a local unit of the Hindu nationalist party, ahead of new round of vote.

    An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard as Kashmiri voters cast their votes in Srinagar last month [Mukhtar Khan/AP]
    An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard as Kashmiri voters cast their votes in Srinagar last month [Mukhtar Khan/AP]

    Suspected separatist rebels shot dead a local leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party in disputed Kashmir ahead of the latest round of India's marathon elections, police said.

    The killing in Anantnag district of India's only Muslim-majority state is the latest in a string of attacks that have marred India's staggered elections which began last month.

    The gunmen opened fire on Gul Mohammad Mir, 65, who headed a local unit of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at his house in south Kashmir on Saturday night.

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    Police said a polling station to be used in the district on Monday was set ablaze in the nearby Shopian area.

    Voter turnout in Indian Kashmir has barely crossed 10 percent in previous rounds of the elections and Anantnag is expected to suffer on Monday - the fifth round of voting in the six-week long elections which end on May 19. Results are to be released four days later.

    Political killings are common in India's elections, with party rivalries as well as regional politics boiling over.

    Last week, a bomb attack by left-wing Maoist rebels in western Maharashtra state killed 15 police commandos and their driver.

    The Maoists, who have traditionally boycotted elections as part of their campaign against the Indian state, killed two police constables in Chhattisgarh state last month.

    They attacked a political convoy in the same state on April 11, killing five people including a BJP politician.

    Monday's voting will be held in 51 constituencies across seven states, including Uttar Pradesh, India's biggest state, which accounts for 80 of the 543 seats decided in the polls.

    Amethi, the family borough of India's main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh, also votes on Monday.

    In the 2014 elections, the BJP decimated Gandhi's Congress party, clinching 282 seats. These elections are predicted to be closer.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency