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DATE=9/4/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDIA ELECTION SCENESETTER (L) NUMBER=2-253452 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: India -- the world's largest democracy -- is set to go to the polls for the third time in three years. Staggered elections, which begin on Sunday, will continue for five weeks. Vote counting begins October sixth, with a new parliament expected to be seated by October 21st. From New Delhi, V-O-A's Jim Teeple reports pre-election polls indicate a majority of Indians want a stable government to emerge from the September-October voting. // CROWD ACTUALITY, IN AND UNDER // Text: Supporters of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee are in an optimistic mood, as five weeks of voting begins for a new 543-seat lower house of India's parliament. Most polls show the prime minister's Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition -- known as National Democratic Alliance -- well ahead of its principal rival, The Congress Party and its allies. Mr. Vajpayee's government was defeated by a single vote in a confidence motion led by Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party, in April. R-K Tarwal -- a staunch Vajpayee supporter -- says there is only one issue in this year's election. // TARWAL ACTUALITY // Stability - and it is only the B-J-P and their allies that can give it, you know. // END ACTUALITY// Mr. Vajpayee is riding a crest of personal popularity, following India's successful defense of its territory in the Kargil region of Kashmir. An 11-week conflict nearly brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Many Indians say the prime minister's handling of the crisis shows he deserves to lead the next government. Although Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party is trailing Mr. Vajpayee's B-J-P / led alliance, Congress Party activists say the polls do not take into account India's rural voters, who the party expects to turn out in large numbers to vote the Congress ticket. Seema Singh says she will vote for the Congress Party because she feels Mr. Vajpayee is exploiting the Kashmir conflict as an election issue. // SINGH ACTUALITY // He has made this Kargil issue into propaganda, which is not right, according to me. // END ACTUALITY // One hundred-40-million voters are eligible to cast their ballots Sunday -- the first of five voting days to be held, through October third. Voting is staggered to give security forces time to move across India's vast expanse - from the high Himalayas to southern rain forests. Six-hundred-and-five-million Indians are eligible to vote in the election. Nearly five million civil servants and one million members of the security forces have been deployed to make sure they can. M-S Gil -- India's chief election commissioner -- says India's elections are one of its strengths. // GIL ACTUALITY // If India has so many cultures ,they are all there (in parliament), now in their own right and under whatever banner. And, the strength of India, after 50 years, is that the parliament and the system of democracy is still a listening system. // END ACTUALITY // There are more than five thousand candidates and 800- thousand polling voting stations scattered throughout India. // REST OPTIONAL // Candidates are allowed to stand from two different seats. Much attention will be focused on the two locations where Sonia Gandhi -- the Italian-born widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi -- is making her first run for office. Both locations have been traditional bastions of Congress Party strength. However, a poll released two days before the election shows Mrs. Gandhi trailing badly in the Bellary precinct, in the southern state, Karnataka, which votes Sunday. (Signed) Neb / jlt / wd 04-Sep-1999 06:44 AM LOC (04-Sep-1999 1044 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .